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P E E F A C E, 

THE accounts given in these pages, as well as the 
opinions expressed, are mainly based upon official docu- 
ments which have already appeared in print in Parlia- 
mentary Blue-books, Transvaal Government Gazettes, 
and other publications, but, as these sources of infor- 
mation are scattered and troublesome to get at, it has 
been thought convenient to reprint, in Appendix or 
footnote form, extracts from some of the despatches, 
orders, and correspondence to which reference is made. 

In the first chapter we have endeavoured to indicate 
the causes which brought about a most unnecessary war, 
and the further errors which led to a state of unpre- 
paredness to cope effectively with it. And in the last 
we have treated of the way in which that war, after 
having passed through certain phases, the besieged gar- 
risons heroically holding their own, but the Natal column 
beaten back in the attempt, with miscalculated means, 
to relieve them, was abruptly brought to an inglorious 


The second and tenth chapters tell the pitiful tale of 
disasters and reverses incurred Bronkhorst Spruit, 
Laing's Nek, Ingogo, and Majuba through the too 
common fault of making light of your enemy. 

In the intervening chapters we have related the 
stories of the besieged garrisons : how seven detach- 
ments of troops, aided by volunteers Pretoria, Potchef- 
stroom, Rustenburg, Marabastadt, Lydenburg, Stander- 
ton, and Wakkerstroom successfully defended their 
posts under enormous difficulties, such as have rarely 
fallen to the lot of British soldiers. Thrown suddenly 
on their own resources and responsibilities, isolated at 
widely distant points of a territory almost as extensive 
as France, beset by foes without, and in the case of 
Pretoria secret foes within, fighting clay by day for 
three weary months, in the midst of troubles, anxieties, 
discomforts, even at Potchefstroom want of food, and 
with depressing, disheartening influences all round them, 
they yet beat back, and made themselves respected by, 
the enemy. 

Hidden away in a remote country, these garrison- 
posts were without special correspondents or telegraph 
wire to enable them to supply a daily summary of their 
proceedings, and claim the attention of the public at 
home. They could not as seems so often arranged 


nowadays by would-be heroes in the estimation of 
their countrymen get delicately rendered little com- 
iminiques about their doings inserted in the papers, or 


even as perhaps more generally done prompt " their 
sisters, their cousins, and their aunts," to do this wire- 
pulling, and judiciously keep them constantly before 
the public. So it happened that, at the close of the 
war, the people of England knew little of the facts con- 
nected with, or the sacrifices made for, the defence of the 
Transvaal capital, and other towns and military posi- 
tions so well retained in possession. Their attention 
naturally enough had been directed to Sir George 
Colley's movements the whole time ; and when there 
came continued reverses in that quarter, immediately 
followed by unsatisfactory peace negotiations, they 
naturally enough again evinced a disposition foment- 
ed by some from political and a few from personal mo- 
tives to bury the whole campaign in oblivion. The 
official judgment to that end may be said to have already 
gone forth before even tedious communication could be 


reopened with the interior of the Transvaal. Thus the 
Transvaal force suffered for faults committed elsewhere, 
and its distinguished and meritorious services in a most 
unusually trying campaign were passed by with but 
little notice or recognition. 1 


1 Only about three dozen officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates 
belonging to the whole Transvaal force, inclusive of volunteers, were 
rewarded receiving brevet-promotion, honours, or medals. 





Confederation in the future, ..... 1 

Attempt to force on confederation led to war, ... 2 

An onward policy requires constant military success, . . 2 

Causes of ill success at commencement of Zulu war, . . 3 

Frequency of military errors conveys a lesson against lightly 

engaging in war, ...... 3 

Position of the Transvaal after annexation, .... 4 

Course of action which, had it been followed, might have resulted 

in Transvaal remaining British territory, ... 6 

Danger of legislating counter to popular opinion, ... 7 

Soothing influence exercised by Sir T. Shepstone when Adminis- 
trator, ........ 9 

Imprudence of withholding representative institutions, . . 10 

Resistance of Boers to system of direct taxation, ... 12 

Mistaken estimate of Boer courage, . . . . .14 

Boer tactics with hill- tribes, . . . . . .15 

Our own difficulties in coercing hill-tribes, . . . .15 

Characteristics of the Boers, . . . . . .18 

Indications of coming storm, . . . . .19 

Armed mass meetings, ...... 20 

Boer women urging on the men, ..... 20 

Determination of the Boers to act early expressed, . . . 21 

Warnings were not missing, . . . . . .21 

But for the Bezuidenhout affair, hostilities might have been 

avoided, ........ 23 

Debate in the Legislative Assembly, .... 25 

Imprudent reduction of military force, .... 26 


Military force in the Transvaal, May 1880, .... 27 

The troops being scattered, no longer formidable, ... 27 

Early remonstrances from the officer commanding, ... 28 

Time for reduction ill chosen, ..... 28 

The dangerous situation remained the same, ... 29 

No change in system of government, . . 29 

Economy sought for in wrong direction, .... 30 

The troops healthy but for enteric fever, .... 30 

Considerable invaliding after Sekukuni war, ... 31 

Causes of enteric fever in South Africa, .... 31 

Attempts made to remedy the evils, .... 32 

Discipline suffers from troJfps being detached, ... 32 

Checks to arrest crime, ...... 33 

Great loss through desertion, ' . . . . .34 

Deserters to Transvaal prior to annexation, .... 34 

Anecdote of a deserter to the Orange Free State, ... 34 

Inducements to desert, ...... 35 

Eisks attending desertion, ...... 35 

Facilities offered for desertion, . . . . .35 

Offer made to two officers, ...... 36 

Boer women marry deserters, ..... 36 

" An underground railroad," ..... 36 

Large cost of desertion, ...... 37 

Discomfort of soldier's life in Transvaal, .... 38 

Soldiers Avere underfed, ...... 38 

Their dislike to biscuits and tinned meats, .... 39 

Anecdote of another deserter, ..... 39 

Danger resulting from AvithdraAval of cavalry, ... 39 

A mounted force essential to cope with Boers, ... 40 

The reason Avliy the cavalry Avere Avithdrawn, ... 40 

Effect of departure of King's Dragoon Guards, ... 41 
Mounted infantry, ..... .41 

Inopportune moment chosen to offer assistance to Cape Government, 42 

Three hundred armed men thus draAvn aAvay, ... 42 

Military force in Transvaal, November 1880, ... 43 

Force in Natal, .... . 43 

Insufficient transport for mobilisation, .... 43 

False impression entertained by Government of moral effect of 

detached posts, .... .44 

Detached posts in Kafir Avars, . . .44 

Altered conditions require changes in tactics, . . . . 44 

The Be/uidenhout affair, ...... 45 

Troops sent to Potchefstroom, . . 48 


Mr Hudson's report, ....... 49 

Military force in Pretoria inadequate to form a field column, . 51 

Troops ordered in from Marabastadt and Lydenburg, . . 53 

Delay in requisition for the movement of the troops, . . 55 

Additional troops asked for from Natal, .... 56 

The movement begun too late, ..... 56 

Date for assembly of mass meeting advanced, ... 58 

Number of Boers under arms, ..... 59 

Intended place for their meeting surveyed, .... 60 

Projected attempt to bring about greater concentration of troops, . 60 

Telegraph wires cut, ...... 61 

Hazardous military position, ..... 62 

Boer proclamation and resolution, ..... 62 

Virtual declaration of war by the Boers, .... 63 

Boer Government established at Heidelberg, ... 63 

Boer troops sent to intercept British detachments on the march, . 63 

Local forces raised in Pretoria, ..... 64 

Moral effect of dynamite experiments, .... 67 

Agent sent by Boer Government with their ultimatum, . . 67 

Proclamation issued by the Administrator, .... 68 

Defences of the town of Pretoria, ..... 68 

The first shots, ....... 69 

Captain Lambart taken prisoner, .... .70 

Eeports from Potchefstroom, ..... 70 

News of the Bronkhorst Spruit disaster, .... 71 



The Lydenburg detachment ordered to Pretoria, . . .73 

Nature of instructions sent, ...... 73 

Lydenburg deficient of means for mobilising, ... 74 

Difficulty in hiring transport, ..... 74 

Excessive quantity of transport required by the commanding 

officer, ........ 75 

The detachment leaves Lydenburg, .... 75 

Inquiry ordered at headquarters into cause of delay in march, . 76 

Details of the march, ...... 77 

Warning of possible attack sent from Pretoria, ... 77 

Warning received and acknowledged, .... 79 

Order of march described, ...... 80 

Insufficient scouting, . . . . . .81 


Other irregularities, . . . . . . .81 

Boer preparations to attack, ...... 82 

The fight, ........ 83 

Cessation of the action, ...... 86 

Casualties, . . . . . . .87 

Care of the wounded, ...... 88 

Medical help sent for to Pretoria, ..... 88 

The colours saved, ....... 89 

Boer losses, ........ 89 

Arrival of additional medical assistance, .... 90 

Death of Lieut.-Colonel Anstruther, .... 91 


Circumstances, . . . . . . .91 

Details of the march, ...... 92 

Boer threat delivered, ...... 92 

Large commissariat convoy from Natal joins, ... 93 

Difficulties on the march, ...... 93 

Warning from Standerton received, .... 93 

Armed Boers watching and following the troops, ... 94 

A Boer messenger arrives from Commandant-General Joubert, . 94 

Night march, ....... 95 

Safe arrival at Standerton, ...... 95 



Town and country around, ... 97 

Military position, ... 99 

Martial law proclaimed, . 99 

The townspeople ordered into the military camp, . . . 100 

Opposition of the townspeople overcome, .... 102 

Effects of declaring martial law, . 104 

Commandeering carried out, . . 104 

Calculated that the state of siege might last three months, . . 105 

Messenger sent to Natal, . . 106 

The town vacated, .... 107 

Civilian appointments in camp, . . 108 

Volunteer corps, . . . 109 

Mounted corps, . . 109 
Artillery, . ... .110 

Pretoria Rifles, .... HO 

Civil Guard, .... H2 


Native scouts, . . . . . . .113 

Pay of the volunteers, . . . . . .113 

Hill-forts constructed, . . . . . .113 

Fort Royal, ........ 114 

The Jail Laager, . . . . . . .114 

Convent Redoubt, . . . . . . .114 

Headquarter Camp, . . . . . . .115 

Civil Laager, . ...... 117 

Natives, ........ 117 

Boer positions, . . . . . . .117 

Soldiers' helmets and belts dyed, . . . . .118 

Skirmish on 28th December, ..... 119 

Reconnaissance and skirmish on 29th December, . . .120 

Camp Orders, . . . . . . .122 

Complimentary order, . . . . . .124 

Camp omnibuses, . . . . . . .125 

Shops in the town reopen, ...... 125 

Dutch Seminary teaching, . . . . . .126 

Onerous duties, ....... 127 

The enemy kept at a distance, . . . . .127 

Foraging expeditions, . . . . . .128 

Captain Burr's expedition, . . . . . .129 

Attack of 6th January, . . . . . .129 

Strength of attacking force, . . . . . .130 

Signalling-party detached, . . . . . .130 

Disposition of Pretoria Carbineers, ..... 131 

Pretoria Carbineers engaged, ..... 131 

Disposition of the main body, ..... 132 

Abuse of the white flag, ...... 132 

Prisoners taken, . . . . . . .134 

Return of the column, . . . . . .135 

British losses, . . . . . . .136 

The enemy's losses, . . . . . . .137 

Bronkhorst Spruit wounded, . . . . .137 

Funerals, ........ 138 

Cemetery, . . . . . . . .139 

Natives, ........ 139 

Commissariat supplies, ...... 141 

"Water-supply, ....... 142 

Conservation of water, . . . . . .142 

Slaughter-cattle, . . . . . . .143 

Food for horses and cattle, ...... 144 

Haymaking, . . . . . . . .144 


Capture of a mowing-machine by the enemy, . . . 145 

Attack of the 16th January, ...... 146 

Strength of the column, ...... 146 

Diversion made by explosions, . . . ... 147 

Disposition of the force, ...... 147 

Progress of the attack, ...... 148 

Boer reinforcements arrive, ...... 149 

Circumstances leading to withdrawal, .... 150 

Gallant conduct of two men, . . . . .153 

Return of the column, ...... 154 

Losses, ........ 155 

The town threatened by another party of the enemy, . . . 155 

Relief of Potchefstroom finally abandoned, . . . .156 

Medical arrangements, . . . . . . .158 

Civil surgeons, . . . . . . .160 

Wood-cutting, . . . . . . .162 

Biltong manufactured, . . . . . .163 

Manufacture of fuel, . . . . . . .164 

Message from Sir George Colley, . . . . .165 

Effectives in the garrison, ...... 167 

Communication with outside places, . . . . .168 

How messages were carried, . . . . . .170 

The situation on 29th January, . . . . .171 

Skirmish on 23d January, . . . . . .172 

Attack on Derde Poort, . . . . . .172 

News of Sir George Colley's first reverse, . . . .173 

The " Sister Annes," . ...... 174 

Delusive reports from the signal-stations, . . . .174 

Native reports, ...... 175 

The Schoeman family, . . . . . .176 

Amusements provided, . . . . . .177 

Concerts, ..... 178 

Theatricals, ...... 179 

Christy Minstrels, ....... 180 

Loretto Convent concert, ..... 181 

Fusilier band, . . . . . . igi 

National Hymn of the South African Republic, . . . 181 

Losses in attacks on the enemy's positions, .... 183 

Attack of the 12th February, .... 185 

Strength of column, .... 186 

Disposition for attack, . . . 187 

The attack commenced, . . 188 

The Carbineers driven in, . . 189 


Confusion resulting, . . . . . . .189 

Lieutenant-Colonel Gildea wounded, . . . .190 

Retreat ordered, ....... 191 

Panic with the mule-waggon drivers, .' . . .191 

Losses, ........ 192 

Exchange of prisoners, . . . . . .193 

Boer mode of fighting, . . . . . .193 

Mounted infantry, . . . . . . .194 

How mounted infantry should be organised, . . . 195 

Conveyance of infantry in mule-waggons, . . . .196 

Clerical services, . . . . . . .197 

Dutch, ........ 197 

Wesleyan, ........ 197 

Eoman Catholic, . . . . . . .197 

Loretto Convent, ....... 197 

Death of Lady Superior, . . . . . .198 

Bishop of Pretoria, . . . . . . .199 

People suspected of holding communication with the enemy, . 200 
Optical delusions, ....... 201 

Spies and traitors in the camp, ..... 202 

Accidents, ........ 203 

Minor injuries, ....... 203 

Deputy- Assistant Commissary-General Whitley thrown and kicked 

by his horse, ....... 203 

An artilleryman accidentally shot, ..... 204 

A mounted infantryman and horse drowned, . . . 204 

Lieutenant O'Grady injured, ..... 204 

Mr Hendricks accidentally shot, ..... 204 

Sergeant Goldie killed by a kick from his horse, . . . 205 

Losses in horses and mules, ...... 205 

Evasions to commandeering, ...... 206 

March, ........ 207 

Expenditure of ammunition, ..... 209 

Natives sent by Boers with false information, . . . 209 

Falsity of such intelligence proved by reconnaissances made, . 210 

Risks from fire, . . . . . . .211 

Precautions adopted, . . . . . . . 2] 1 

Camp newspaper, ....... 212 

Photography, ........ 213 

Administration of martial law, ..... 214 

Provost-Marshal, . . . . . . .216 

Police, 217 

Gold robbery, ...... 217 


Jail prisoners, . . . . . . . .218 

Mrs Jorrisen and Mrs Bok under surveillance, . . . 219 

No unnecessary alarms, ...... 220 

Baboon mistaken for Boer movements, . . . .221 

Vagaries of sentries, . . . . . . .221 

The ration reduced, ....... 222 

Change of position effected by a Boer laager, . . . 222 

Flag of truce sent in with news of an armistice, . . . 225 

English opinion on the war, ...... 225 

Feeling of the Dutch population of Cape Colony and Orange Free 

State, ........ 225 

How the news was received in camp, .... 226 

Strong political feeling, ...... 227 

Final order of the day, ...... 229 

Cessation of active hostilities, ..... 230 

Peace notified, ....... 230 

Observations on the defence and its results, .... 231 

Arrival of Commandant-General Joubert, .... 233 

Attitude of the townspeople, ..... 234 

Boers return to the town, ...... 234 

Distress in the town, ....... 235 

Sir Owen Lanyon recalled, ...... 236 

Health of the garrison, ...... 237 

Health of the civil population, ..... 237 

Casualties, ........ 237 

Closing despatch, ...... 238 



The town, ...... . 242 

Garrison, ...... 243 

Special Commissioner's arrival, . . . 244 

Failure to raise volunteers, ..... 244 

Indications of rebellion disregarded, .... 244 

Boer force enters Potchefstroom, .... 247 

Eefugees from the town, ..... 247 

Military posts held, ....... 247 

The first shot, .... 248 

Surrender of the Court-house, . . . 249 

Attack on the fort, .... 251 

Truce, -..... 252 

Boer treachery, .... 252 


The jail abandoned, ....... 252 

Want of water, ....... 253 

Horses and mules lost, . . . . . .254 

The oxen lost, . . . : . . . 254 

Eefugees in the fort, ....... 255 

Natives in the fort, ....... 255 

The enemy's strength, ...... 256 

The fort improved, ....... 256 

New- Year's Day attack, ...... 257 

Town magazine occupied, ...... 257 

Night sortie, ........ 258 

Day sortie, ........ 259 

News of reinforcements from England, .... 260 

Union-jack made, ....... 260 

Outer communication, ...... 261 

Ruse of the enemy, ....... 264 

News of Sir George Colley's first reverse, .... 264 

Enemy's gun reopens, ...... 265 

Sunday amenities, ....... 265 

Further advance of the enemy, ..... 266 

Lady refugees, ....... 268 

Food supplies, ....... 268 

A suspected Boer spy, ...... 270 

Capitulation, . . . . . . . .271 

Good behaviour of the Boers, ..... 272 

Departure of the garrison, ...... 273 

Our losses, ........ 273 

Boer losses, ........ 274 

District Order, ....... 274 

Capitulation cancelled, ...... 275 



Town, . ....... 276 

Fort and garrison, ....... 276 

Opening of hostilities, ...... 277 

Progress of the siege, ....... 278 

Captain Auchinleck wounded, ..... 278 

Surrender demanded a second time, ..... 278 

A cannon brought into action, . . . . .279 

Third demand for surrender, . . . . .279 


Despatches from Pretoria, . 280 

February, ... 280 
Sortie, ... .281 
Boer gun reopens, ... 

Notification of intended armistice, . . 283 
Peace, ... .283 



Position, ........ 285 

Site of fort unsuitable, .... 286 

Feelings of inhabitants, ...... 286 

Garrison reduced, ..... . 287 

Imprudent action of civil authorities, .... 288 

Commencement of hostilities, ..... 289 

Energetic proceedings, ...... 290 

Skirmish, ... .292 

Loss of cattle and horses, ...... 292 

Boer works, ........ 293 

Method of posting sentries, ...... 293 

Boer cannon, ........ 294 

Natives, 295 

Water-supply, ....... 295 

Fresh-meat supply, ....... 296 

Sanitary conditions, . . . . . . . 296 

Notice of armistice agreement, ..... 297 

Peace notified, ....... 297 

Evacuation of Marabastadt, ...... 298 

Casualties, ........ 298 



Garrison, ........ 300 

The fort, ....... 301 

Townspeople refuse to co-operate in defence, . . . 302 

News of the Bronkhorst Spruit disaster, .... 303 

Measures taken to improve the defence, .... 304 

Excellent spirit displayed by the 94th Regiment, . . . 305 

Commissariat supplies, ...... 306 

A few volunteers join, ...... 307 


Boer demand for surrender, ...... 307 

Short armistice agreed upon, ..... 308 

Messenger sent to Pretoria, ...... 308 

Fatal accident to a volunteer, ..... 309 

Boer force appears, ....... 309 

Natives tampered with, ...... 309 

Commencement of attack, . . . . . . . 310 

Fresh demand for surrender of fort, ..... 310 

Boer cannon opens, . . . . . . .311 

Day sortie, . . . . . . . .311 

Message from the town, . . . . . .311 

Gallant conduct of Conductor Parsons, .... 312 

Progress of the siege, ....... 312 

Fresh meat obtained, . . . . . . .313 

A sad incident, . . . . . . .313 

Night sortie, ........ 314 

Fatal act of hardihood, ...... 315 

Intrepid behaviour of some men, ..... 315 

Scarcity of water, ....... 316 

Fresh daring act by Mr Parsons, ..... 318 

Additional defences made, . . . . . .318 

An extemporised gun, ...... 319 

Boer gun in a fresh position, ...... 319 

Union-jack made, ....... 320 

Quieter days, ........ 320 

Zigzag trench made towards Boer position, .... 320 

Reduction of ration, . . . . . . .321 

Messengers sent to Newcastle, ..... 321 

Fall of a hut, . ..... .321 

Boer gun again moved, . . . . . .321 

Fresh element of danger : huts fired, .... 321 

Excellent service performed by some men, .... 323 

News from outside, ....... 323 

Enemy offers terms for capitulation, ..... 324 

The fort ordered to be held to the last, .... 324 

News of the armistice, but hostilities still continued, . . 325 

Peace notified, ....... 325 



Town, . . . . . . . .327 

Military position, ....... 32S 


Defences, .... . 328 

Telegraph destroyed, ....... 329 

Christmas Eve, ....... 329 

Eefuge for women and children, ..... 329 

False alarm, ........ 330 

Christmas Day, ....... 330 

Martial law declared, . . . . . . .331 

First skirmish, ....... 331 

Boer positions, ....... 333 

Hospital arrangements, . .... 334 

First sortie, ........ 334 

Gallant conduct of natives, ...... 335 

Another work erected, ...... 337 

Supplies, ..... . 337 

Reduction of rations, ...... 339 

Commandant-General Joubert's arrival, .... 339 

A "scare," ........ 339 

Arrival of a Zulu messenger, ..... 340 

Escape from disaster, ...... 343 

More works erected, ....... 344 

A native shot, ....... 344 

Second sortie, ....... 344 

Curious enterprise, ....... 347 

The last shot, . . ... 348 

Armistice notified, but the possibility of peace being made not 

entertained, ....... 348 



Military position, . .... 350 

Disturbed state of the district, ..... 351 

Arrival of Captain Saunders, ..... 352 

Tii-truetions from Sir George Colley, .... 353 

Volunteers for defence of the town called for, . . . 353 

Projected capture of the town frustrated, .... 354 

Town defences, ....... 355 

How messages were sent out, ..... 356 

Xatives come in for protection, . . 358 

Skirmishes, . ...... 358 

Mr Fa\vcus taken prisoner, but escapes, .... 360 

Boer movements, ....... 361 

Sharp skirmish. ... . 3(53 


Gallant behaviour of Private Osborne, .... 365 

Armistice, ........ 366 

Notification of peace, ...... 367 



The main body of the enemy invades Natal, . . . 369 
Premature movement made by Sir George Colley from New- 
castle, thus placing his column in similar position to that 

of the Pretoria garrison, ..... 370 

Mistaken estimate of Boer power, ..... 371 

Forward movement determined on, ..... 373 

Action of Laing's Nek, ...... 374 

Observations on action at Laing's Nek, .... 375 

Action at the Ingogo, . . . . . .377 

Action at Majuba Hill, ...... 379 

What the English reverses brought about, .... 383 

General good behaviour of Boers, ..... 383 

A flight of fancy, ....... 384 



Reflections, ........ 

Action of President Brand, ...... 

Lord Kimberley's proposed terms for negotiating peace, 

Sir Evelyn Wood assumes command, .... 

Sir Evelyn Wood's instructions those already sent to Sir George 

Colley, .... ... 393 

Curious telegrams, ....... 396 

" History of the armistice," ...... 401 

Singular conditions of the armistice, .... 402 

Progress of peace negotiations, ..... 403 

Scheme for severance of territory fortunately abandoned, . . 406 

War passages interspersed in Sir Evelyn Wood's telegrams, . 407 

The situation is well stated by a " Quarterly Reviewer," . . 409 

Decay of English influence throughout South Africa, . . 411 
Native question, . . . . . . .414 

Final reflections, ....... 419 

APPENDIX, . . 423 



E K II A T A. 

I'age 19, line 6 from foot, for " Inliloblane" read " Iiihlobane. 

n 159, line 7 from foot, /or " Dr Sheen " read " Dr Skeen.'' 

>. 185, first line, for "note'' read "page." 

.. 221, sidenote. for " Baboon" read ' Baboons.'' 

plete. Intercommunication by railways will in due 
time do much, and closer community of interests, 
brought about by the creation of railway, telegraph, 
postal, customs, and other unions, together with the 
adoption of a common native policy, may be expected 
to educate gradually the local governments and peo- 
ples in favour of the change. Still, the result will 
scarcely be achieved until the self-interest of each 
Colony or State demands it, and ability is shown by 
each country to bear, financially and otherwise, the 






THE confederation of the several Colonies and States CHAP. 
of South Africa will, there can be little doubt, be- 

. . , _ -. .. Confedera- 

come an accomplished tact at some future day ; but, tion in the 


in the natural course of events, the process of assimi- 
lation must be slow, and take many years yet to com- 
plete. Intercommunication by railways will in due 
time do much, and closer community of interests, 
brought about by the creation of railway, telegraph, 
postal, customs, and other unions, together with the 
adoption of a common native policy, may be expected 
to educate gradually the local governments and peo- 
ples in favour of the change. Still, the result will 
scarcely be achieved until the self-interest of each 
Colony or State demands it, and ability is shown by 
each country to bear, financially and otherwise, the 


2 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, burden of self-defence against possible interior or 
i. . ... 

exterior native risings. 

Attempt to Such a slow modus operandi, though carrying 
confedCTa- with it the advantage of being in accord with the 
war. c ' phlegmatic character of the 'large majority of the 
peoples to be dealt with, did not, in 1876-77, satisfy 
the Imperial Government, and an onward as it has 
been termed policy was, in preference, determined 
on. This too great eagerness to carry out a confeder- 
ation scheme defeated its own object, leading, as it 
did, to a too hasty annexation of the Transvaal the 
primary cause of the Zulu war, and bringing in its 
train the Boer rebellion. 

Anon- Aii onward policy, pursued in countries whose 

ward policy .,,. lin . -jiii 

requires " inhabitants are not wholly in agreement w r ith tne 
military order of government enforced, requires continued 

success. . 

military occupation and success all round, or tailure 
occurring in any quarter may cause an ultimate col- 
lapse of the whole system. Isandlwhana may be said 
to have sounded the knell of, and raised a strong 
revulsion of English feeling against, such a policy. 
Even the restoration of prestige to our arms at Ulundi 
did not avail to change the current of that feeling ; 
and very probably the Zulu war, in succeeding gen- 
erations, will l)e better remembered by the disaster 
of Isandlwhana than the victory of Ulundi. Had all 
gone well at the outset of that campaign as was 
reasonably anticipated must be the case how differ- 
ent would have been the result of such success to the 


whole of South Africa, and to those concerned in the CHAP. 


government of that land at the time ! 

It was well understood, from the character of causes of 
the Zulus and their military organisation, that the at com- 

. _ mencement 

issue of the first serious encounter in our favour ofzuiu 


would practically end the campaign. The greater, 
therefore, was the need for caution to ensure that 
result. The British force originally in the field, sup- 
plemented by colonial and native contingents, was 
sufficient to have assured the defeat and subjugation 
of the enemy in a short and comparatively inexpens- 
ive war, but for lamentable omissions, a faulty plan 
of campaign, too great division of forces, want of 
ordinary military precautions, and the too common 
British error of despising your enemy. 

The numerous grave military errors committed Frequency 

even since Isandlwhana from similar causes, not- errors con- 
veys a les- 

withstanding the terrible warning then oiven - - son against 

15 _ lightly 

should surely tend to make statesmen pause in the engaging 

in war. 

future before lightly engaging in war, and staking 
their reputations on the chances of military success. 
The miserable surprise at Inhlobane l in Zululand, 
the disastrous defeat at Maiwand in Afghanistan, and 
the successive reverses Laing's Nek, Ingogo, and 

1 Sometimes spelt Zlobane. Fortunately for Colonel Evelyn Wood, 
he succeeded the following day after he had withdrawn behind his 
laager defences at Kambula in repulsing the Zulu attack on his posi- 
tion ; so that the news of the two conflicts being mixed up and arriving 
together, little notice was taken of the surprise of his troops the first 
day at Inhlobane, and the consequent heavy losses suffered on that 

4 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Majuba endured from the Boers on the Transvaal- 
Natal border, should convey a lasting lesson in this 
respect. If a German critic is correct, we even 
narrowly escaped another "dark passage in English 
military history " in the Egyptian campaign ; l and 
Tamai in the Soudan campaign furnishes a further 

Position of The annexation of the Transvaal was carried out 

the Trans- . t> -, n>-r< -i i 

vaai after in th e early part oi 1877, when it seems to nave 
tion. ' been expected by the authors of that act that the 
people, after having been accustomed to republican 
or even individual independence ever since the coun- 
try was first settled, would quickly become reconciled 
to the high-handed change made to a Crown-colony 
form of government a form from which our colonies 
in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and at the Cape 
had for some time past shaken themselves free. The 
declarations made at the time by Sir Theophilus Shep- 
stone had led the people to suppose that the with- 
drawal of their liberties was intended to be merely 
temporary, and that self-government would, in due 
course, follow a short transition period. How delu- 
sive were the promises thus held out, time plainly 
showed. High Commissioner and Administrator were 
replaced by other men, and a Conservative gave way 

1 " Graver results than those of the 3d August might have been pro- 
duced by the surprise, as General Havelock calls it, of the English 
vanguard by a more numerous body of Egyptian troops at Kassassin. 
It is due solely to the timely and gallant interposition of the cavalry 
under Sir Urury Lowe that the fight did not constitute one of the dark 
passages in English military history." Contemporary Review, April 
1 883. 


to a Liberal Government in England, but the pro- CHAP. 
misecl free institutions were still kept back. It would 
seem that, until the time came when it was at last 
seen that the prospect of forcing on a confederation 
was hopeless in June 1880, when the Cape Parlia- 
ment rejected the proposal for a Conference on that 
head it was deemed politic to withhold the grant of 
self-government, in the hope that the malcontent Boers 
might be the more disposed to fall in with the views 
of the Imperial Government, and lend their influence 
towards confederation, in the desire to obtain repre- 
sentative institutions themselves, by joining the self- 
governed Cape Colony. 1 These expectations were 
doomed to be disappointed, and the Cape Colony, 
having declined to join in a Conference, unmistakably 
intimated its intention of standing by itself for the 
present. The time had thus, then, clearly arrived 
for the adoption of one of two courses with regard to 
the Transvaal either to annul the annexation, or 
endeavour to satisfy the legitimate wishes of its people 
by giving them representative government. 2 Never- 

1 This object is developed in the last paragraph of a despatch Feb. 
19, 1880 from Sir Michael Hicks-Beach to Sir Garnet Wolseley. See 
Blue-book (c. 2505), No. 60, March 1880. 

2 The following extract from a letter we have seen, written from the 
Transvaal, on the 6th July 1880, by an officer then occupying a high 
military position, will show that the danger of not then meeting the 
wants of the Boers was not unforeseen by all on the spot at that period : 

" The Confederation Conference proposals laid before the Cape Parlia- 
ment having been shelved, the Transvaal agitators, Messrs Kruger, 
Joubert, and Jorissen, who have been awaiting the result of the debate at 
Cape Town, will now, no doubt, return to stump this province. Had 
the Conference taken place, these gentlemen would probably have been 
provided for as delegates, and thus further agitation against annexation 
have been prevented. Should the Home Government grant greater 

6 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, theless, this opportunity was allowed to slip by ; 

nothing was attempted in the latter direction ; and 
smooth despatches continued to be received at the 
Colonial Office in Downing Street, reporting to the 
effect that the financial condition of the country was 
improving, and that the people, while paying their 
taxes, were quieting down. 

course of Had we been desirous of preserving the connec- 
which, tion the grant of responsible government, assented to 

had it been * . 

followed, i n time even to within a lew weeks 01 tne actual 

might have 

resulted in outbreak of hostilities might have been the means 


remaining O f t ] ie Transvaal remaining British territory. Though 

British _ 

territory. C i eac l_l cks, rendering the task of government diffi- 
cult, would, no doubt, have followed, means would 
have been found there, as elsewhere, to overcome 
them, and any general insurrection would have been 
avoided. Had the gift of such a popular measure 
been also coupled with the loan of a million ster- 
ling, towards the construction of a railway from Dela- 
goa Bay, the results gained would soon have proved 
that a master-stroke of statesmanship had been made. 
Such an expenditure, while eventually turning out 
financially a good investment, would have worked as 
an insurance against disaffection, by gratifying a 
long-felt ambition of the Boers communication by 

I'm-dom, and iin elective franchise, instead of the present nominee 
system in force for the Transvaal House of Assembly, then there might 
lie some outlet for the energies of these men, but a deadlock in govern- 
ment would soon ensue. Failing this, it may be feared that they will 
persuade the Boers to resume their obstructive tactics, verging on open 
hostilities, though probably never actually coming to fighting." 


the shortest route with the finest seaport in South CHAP. 
Africa ; creating a market for agricultural produce, 
and opening out the mineral wealth of the land ; and 
causing, for the purpose of making the railway, and 
through the greater development of the country, such 
a flow of emigration into the province as would speed- 
ily have neutralised the power of the Dutch element. 
There were those who, early after the annexation, fore- 
saw the advantages to be thus gained, and advocated 
such a loan. The Boer war cost a great deal more 
than a million in money, and something more besides ! 

There is a principle which seems to have now Danger of 

TI i i i 1-1 legislating 

fairly taken root in England by which our states- counter to 
men are usually guided or influenced in legislating opinion. 
for their countrymen at home, that extreme caution 
is expedient, if not absolutely necessary, not to go 
beyond or outside of public opinion. Unfortunately 
this safe general rule has not always been sufficiently 
attended to by our proconsuls in Crown-governed 
dependencies, the mother country suffering propor- 
tionately. In a popular sense, and outside certain 
party and missionary circles, it was a matter of in- 
difference to the mass of Englishmen whether we 
kept any hold on the Transvaal or not. We might 
well have receded any time before the Boer out- 
break from the mistake originally committed in 
annexing that province. It would not have been the 
first time that, for the sake of expediency, we had 
voluntarily abandoned territory we had acquired. 
On South African soil, in former years, we had can- 

8 THE TKANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, celled the annexation of British Kaffraria, and had 
restored the Orange Free State to the Boers. Not 
to mention the many places which fell into our pos- 
session during the wars of the last and present cen- 
tury, and which we gave up when peace ensued, the 
cession of the Ionian Islands in recent years may be 
cited. Tangier also, held by us for more than sixty 
years during the seventeenth century, was abandoned 
as too troublesome and costly to keep, owing to in- 
cessant attacks from outside. 

But, whatever may have been the feeling in Eng- 
land, there can be little question as to the direction 
it took in the Transvaal after annexation. The vari- 
ous mass meetings, held at intervals, convened and 
attended by the Boers the landed proprietors of the 
country, a singularly quiet, undemonstrative class, 
forming the large majority of the white population 
gave unanimous expression to the desire to be cut 
adrift from us. No attempt was made to dispute 
this fact, by obtaining a vote on the point by ballot 
or otherwise ; and any counter-wishes expressed by 
the trading or other sections of the inhabitants 
were far outweighed by the numbers on the other 

Badly advised as to the real condition and sen- 
timent of the country, the Imperial Government 
did not perceive the urgent necessity for giving way 
to popular feeling. No soothing concessions were 
made. On the contrary, it was notified that the 
act of annexation was irrevocable, and the High Com- 
missioner in 1879 publicly emphasised the decision 


by declaring that, "so long as the sun shines, the CHAP. 
Transvaal will remain British territory." 

Whatever blame may attach to Sir Theophilus soothing 

, p i i i'i -1 influence 

JShepstone lor his share in too hastily annexing the exercised 

. by Sir T. 

Transvaal, he certainly subsequently exercised a calm- shepstone 

J when Ad- 

ing influence, which was absent after his departure, 
. .... . . tor - 

During his administration there existed a certain 

degree of sympathy between the governing body and 
the Dutch community ; but, with his removal, all 
touch with the Boer class ceased. 1 Sir Theophilus 
could speak Dutch, and understood the Boer char- 
acter. During the period for Nachtmaal, 2 when the 
farmers from the outlying districts trekked 3 into 
Pretoria with their families, often from long dis- 
tances, in order to attend the services of their church, 
he would be seen in the large market square, passing 

1 Extract from " The Boers at Home," ' Blackwood's Magazine ' for 
December 1881 : "Sir Owen Lanyon, who followed Sir Theophilus 
Shepstone, proved a most unfortunate selection ; exactly the man to 
rub up the Boers the wrong way, and that with no wish on his part, 
but with the desire to do all that he could for them compatible with 
his duty. To begin with, he was a soldier ; and to a Boer a rooi batjee 
is the incarnation of all that is bad in the English Government. He 
belonged to a West India regiment, and the cleverer Boers were not 
slow in finding out that these are black regiments. To associate or 
have anything to do with blacks, except to make them work, or 
sjambook them if they don't work hard, is an unpardonable crime in a 
Boer's eyes. Worse than all, the Governor was a man of swarthy com- 
plexion, and they at once started the idea that he was of black descent 
himself ; carrying their hatred of the race to such a height, that I am 
told a Boer one day said to him to his face that he would not be ruled 
by a black man. Of course the idea was utterly false, the Governor 
being as pure - bred an Irishman as any other ; but it was spread 
about, notwithstanding, and did much harm to him and his govern- 

2 The Lord's Supper. 3 Journeyed. 

10 THE TRANSVAAL WAE, 1880-81. 

CHAP, from waggon to waggon, and among the tents, ex- 

j OO OO * O * 

changing familiar greetings with all, and indulging 
their love for talk over their own affairs, and argu- 
ment on political matters. All this being suited to 
their habits and customs, and he being easy of access 
to all who chose to call at Government House to dis- 
cuss questions with him, rendered him peculiarly 
fitted to gauge popular feeling, as well as to moderate 
extreme opinions. It was said that many a Boer, 
after conversing with him on some imaginary griev- 
ance, personal or otherwise, would depart acknow- 
ledging that he saw the matter discussed in a 
different light from what he did before. Had Sir 
Theophilus Shepstone continued to administer the 
government, one cannot but think that he would 
have been more alive to the danger of delaying, for 
too long, a return to a representative form of govern- 
ment, and, instead of prophesying smooth things, 
would have warned the Imperial Government to give 
way, in time to have averted the Boer rising, the 
natural production of previous indifference, vacilla- 
tion, or procrastination. 

Their pastoral farms being of great extent gen- 
erally upwards of 6000 acres each dotted over the 
more fertile parts of a country estimated to have an 
area of 120,000 square miles, the Boers number- 
ing about 40,000 souls from their scattered, and 
more or less necessarily isolated condition of life, are 
naturally a slow-thinking, independent people, dis- 
liking change, especially when brought upon them 


without their consent or instrumentality. Yet these CHAP. 
men, if only judiciously treated, and allowed the full 
liberty of debate to which they have always been 
accustomed, could be persuaded, little by little, to 
acquiesce in measures which, attempted to be hastily 
thrust upon them without due consultation, would 
only entail stolid opposition and excite disaffection. 
Discussion with them as with others nearer home- 
acts as a safety-valve. The pity of it was that this 
protective remedy was not appreciated by those in 
authority, and that instead of discussion being util- 
ised and directed in a representative assembly, the 
Volksraad the representative Parliament before an- 
nexation remained closed. With the Boers, more 
than any people, it was incumbent upon us to pursue 
a policy which aimed at carrying them with us, in 
making any alteration in their laws or customs, and 
thus avoid playing the part of a paternal Govern- 
ment urging on fresh legislation, however beneficial, 
neither asked nor wished for without taking into 
our counsel those most affected by our action. The 
men who had by their courage and endurance gained 
possession of the territory, and had spread home- 
steads, flocks, and herds over the land ; who had, 
notwithstanding all that has been averred to the 
contrary, managed their affairs fairly well sumciently 
so for their wants, according to their lights, were 
now set aside, and deemed unfitted to have a voice 
in their own government. They were told, in hazy 
language, to wait patiently, when perhaps hereafter 
they might be trusted with some share in the direc- 

12 THE TRANSVAAL WAK, 1880-81. 

CHAP, tion of their country's affairs. Being a patient people, 
they did wait for some years, meanwhile trying to 
make the authorities placed over them, and the 
Imperial Government, believe that eventually their 
patience must give way, and that delay in giving 
them back their freedom would certainly cause them 
to rise. But the local, who were responsible for 
keeping the imperial, authorities well informed of the 
state of the country and attitude of the people, did 
not believe them ; but credited them with being only 
temporarily stirred up by professed agitators and 
adventurers from Holland, and looked upon them as 
altogether too lethargic and cowardly to attempt any 
overt action, their threats as too laughable and bom- 
bastic to have any reality of purpose in them. So, 
having formed a totally wrong estimate of the people 
under their rule and control, the local Government 
went on in the even tenor of their way, initiating 
fresh " beneficial " legislation, and assimilating certain 
of the laws to the more advanced ones of the Cape 
and Xatal ; but, before all, striving to stand well at 
Downing Street, by endeavouring to produce a good 
financial balance-sheet all the time profoundly igno- 
rant of the increasing irritation around, and apparently 
indifferent to the feelings of the large majority whose 
wishes ran counter to the policy adopted. 

if Boers to 

system of 

Resistance The Boers had often proved restive individually, 

, ,f I !, it.r-0 +,-, / * 

and sometimes collectively under taxation, even 
before we took over the country. Resistance to 
the tax-collector was not offered for the first time 


under our rule. This is clearly set forth in de- CHAP. 
spatches from the Administrator in 1881 ; but Sir 
Owen Lanyon, while seeking to show that such re- 
sistance has resulted from the naturally lawless and 
turbulent character of the Boers, has apparently 
failed to draw the obvious lesson and conclusion 
which the historical details given, properly read, 
afford, that the opposition exhibited at different 
periods, often causing serious commotion plainly 
originated from the common dislike to direct taxa- 
tion, and that the intelligent remedy to guard against 
such antagonism and possible conflict in the future, 
would have been, at an early period, to have varied 
the system to one of indirect taxation. 

Excluding the inhabitants of towns under 10,000 
the white population of the province may be said 
to have consisted of but one class, landowners, who, 
with their families and some natives, work their 
own farms. The direct taxes levied on each farm 
may therefore be viewed as virtually a kind of poll- 
tax on the majority of the population an objection- 
able form of raising revenue, well calculated to excite 

The large increase which had taken place in the 
revenue during 1880, was, no doubt as Sir Owen 
Lanyon reported 1 in part due to "an improved 
system of collection and supervision ; " but the con- 
stant pressure therefrom, brought to bear upon the 
Landdrosts and other officials charged with the col- 
lection, caused these officers, in their turn, to exercise 

1 See Blue-book (c. 2950), No. 24, June 1881. 

14 THE TRANSVAAL WAK, 1880-81. 

CHAP, greater urgency than had previously been customary, 
and more than probably contributed to increase 
the general irritation and discontent around. Even 
arrears were claimed for bygone years, which the 
old South African Republic had neglected or had 
been unable to collect ; and this often in doubtful 
cases, when, through the defective mode of keeping 
the public accounts of that period, no official proof 
was forthcoming as to the justice of the claims 
advanced, the tax -payers being required to show 
that they had already been settled. Wonderful 
ledgers and an elaborate system of accounts were 
introduced into all the country districts, which, how- 
ever fitted for India or places having a long-practised 
official class, capable of complying with their require- 
ments, were bewildering and little suited to the pre- 
vious want of training of the Landdrosts and others 
of Dutch extraction. It may be that, in consequence, 
many of these men looked back with some regret to 

*/ o 

past days of greater official calm and slackness, and 
were the more inclined to sympathise in the avowed 
object of their fellow-countrymen, to bring back the 
old government. 

The underestimate of the warlike qualities of the 
Boers, formed very generally by Englishmen before 
the outbreak the main cause of subsequent reverses 
to our arms was largely due to a too hasty judg- 
ment, engendered by generalising from the want of 
success attending the Boer commandoes 1 in prose- 

1 Burgher levies. 


cuting the war against Sekukuni, and their failure CHAP. 
to support their native allies, the Swazis, when storm- 
ing his place, followed by their break-up and igno- 
minious retirement in 1876. For political purposes, 
more than necessary was made of the cowardice 
and insubordination then exhibited, and the state of 
collapse which resulted. The war was a local one, 
which did not threaten other parts of the province. 
The men, commandeered l from other localities, were 
half-hearted, and without enthusiasm in carrying on 
hostilities against a chief who, many of them declared, 
was an independent one, who should have been origi- 
nally left alone and his territory not encroached upon. 

The Boers have never experienced much difficulty Boer tac- 
in contending with the natives in the plains or open Mi-tribes, 
country ; but, in the mountainous and rocky districts, 
offering natural defences, they have generally preferred 
slower tactics bringing; the enemy to terms by de- 

O O J J 

stroying their means of subsistence, together with 
constantly harassing them rather than incur con- 
siderable loss of life through directly attacking or 
storming a strong position. 

We have not been without experience of the diffi- om- own 
culties attending the coercion of hill-tribes. In 1853, in coercing 

r< /-< I-IIIIT i hill-tribes. 

Sir George Catncart, although he had present a large 
well-appointed force of all arms, encountered a reverse 
when entering Basutoland, and was not sorry to close 
with Moshesh's proposals for peace which immediately 
followed. The later experiences of the Cape Colonial 
forces at Morosi's Mountain, and against the Basutos, 

1 Forced levy. 

16 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, may also be instanced. But, in the Transvaal, even 
after we had taken over the conduct of the Sekukuni 
war from the Boers, we did not progress satisfactorily 
until, on the close of the Zulu war, the arrival of an 
overwhelming force, under Sir Garnet Wolseley, ren- 
dered success no longer doubtful. After two and 
a half years' skirmishing around the position, with 
but one serious advance on our part to take it, Seku- 
kuni still held out. Finally, in November 1879, Sir 
Garnet Wolseley deemed it prudent to bring up over 
2000 British troops and Colonial levies, and to sup- 
plement these with 10,000 Swazis or other natives 
finer warriors than those they had opposed to them. 
Sekukurii's place was then stormed and taken, our 
loss in killed being 8 Europeans and about 500 

It is not easy to afford any intelligent explanation, 
other than that attempted above, of the lamentable 
mistake made in undervaluing the spirit of the Boers. 
Are we to suppose that our forefathers' feeling of 
contempt, and prejudices entertained against all for- 
eigners, in the days when " Dutch courage " was a 
common proverb, had descended to some of the au- 
thorities in South Africa ? The Duke of Wellington 


is said, when asked which nationality produced the 
bravest men, to have expressed his belief that all 
men were brave a true remark, which might have 
l)ecn remembered with advantage at the time we are 
writing of, for it only requires a common enthusiastic 
cause to firmly knit together a people, and courage 
and intrepidity will not be found wanting. Annexa- 


tion gave the required impetus, united the various CHAP. 
elements, and created such a cause. 1 

If any one wishes to realise how far enthusiasm, 
and what is deemed a just cause, can lead a handful 
of men to cope successfully with overwhelming num- 
bers of disciplined troops, let him read Mrs Bray's 
most interesting work, published in 1870, ' The Eevolt 
of the Protestants of the Cevennes, with some account 
of the Huguenots, in the Seventeenth Century.' There 
he will learn how some 3000 peasants who may be 
termed the progenitors of the Jouberts and other 
descendants of the French Huguenots to be found 
throughout the Transvaal and other parts of South 
Africa were able to hold their own against 60,000 
troops, the flower of the French army, under a 
marshal of France. 2 

1 Extract from ' De Volksstem ' Report from a special correspondent 
on Boer meeting, December 10, 1879 Blue-book (c. 2505), South 
Africa, page 115 : 

" When I walked back to my tent, and once more cast my eye on 
that assembled crowd, come together here from far and near, it seemed 
to me that the annexation, after all, had a beneficial result for the Trans- 
vaal people. It called into existence the mass meetings, of which we 
have now the fifth, and by that very means the various elements of 
the country were, as it were, securely knit together ; and where for- 
merly speaking about the Transvaal, we could only mention a thinly 
populated country, whose inhabitants were severed by many divergent 
interests, and, as it were, bound together by no single bond of union, 
these same inhabitants now come forward as one people, with their 
own history, and indissolubly bound together by the highest virtue 
patriotism. Thus a bad cause sometimes brings forth some good 

2 An excellent essay on " The Camissards," based on Mrs Bray's and 
other works, was published in the October number of the ' Quarterly 
Review' for 1880 too late, unfortunately, for the intelligent reading 
and education of those who were most concerned on our side in bringing 
about the Boer revolt. 


18 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Generations of open-air activity, in one of the 
finest climates of the world, have made the Boers 

Character- . . 

isticsof of the present day, in their physical attributes, one 

the Boers. J J 

of the most favoured of races. Let any visitor to 
the Cape, willing to satisfy himself on this point, go 
into one of the Dutch country districts say, for 
convenience, that of the Paarl, near to Cape Town 
and take note of the splendid physique of the men 
and women generally met with, and then, on return 
to England, landing at Plymouth or Southampton, 
mark the contrast presented by the numerous un- 
der-sized, ill-developed English men, and women too, 
commonly seen. 

Sir Arthur Cunynghame, early in 1879, in ' My 
Command in South Africa,' gave to the public a very 
correct opinion he had formed of the characteristics 
and qualities of the Boers. He writes at page 208 : 

" I have often remarked the hardihood of these 
Boers ; and whether for bearing cold, heat, depriva- 
tion of food, or for. power to continue in the saddle, 
1 look upon them as quite equal to the Cossack of 
Russia, and very far superior to him in the use of 
the ritk'/' 

And again, at page 241 : 

"There are no finer young men in the world than 
the young Dutch Boers, who are generally of immense 
height and size, and very hardy. Their life is spent 
in the open air by day, and frequently at night they 
sleep on the veld with no tent or covering. Men 
more fit for the Grenadier Guards, as to personal 
appearance, could not be found." 


The writer of the "Boers at Home," in ' Blackwood's CHAP. 
Magazine 'for December 1881, also vividly portrays 
the chief outward observable points of the Boers. 
Among other remarks, he says: 

" Your Boer might pass any day for a small 
English farmer, perhaps a bit more untidy about 
the beard, not unlikely evincing a stronger dislike 
to the wash-tub in more senses than one. The 
superior class are just substantial gentlemen-farmers, 
while many of them are strikingly handsome. They 
are a tall race, six-feet-four being a common stature, 
and differ from English of the same class only in 
dress corduroy suits of hideous shades of brown 
and yellow being worn almost without exception." 

An ominous but disregarded sign was early given indications 

,,,. .. .-.' -if coniing 

oi the unfavourable disposition entertained towards storm. 
us, by the absence of support, co-operation, or even 
sympathy from the Boers, during the progress of 
the Zulu and Sekukuni campaigns, 1878-79, not- 
withstanding that these hostilities may be said to 
have been in their cause, and advantageous in break- 
ing down the power of native chiefs, who had already 
occasioned them great troubles and losses. The few 
followers, under the brave Piet Uys who were so 
uselessly sacrificed at the sad affair of Inhloblane : 
were, notwithstanding the inducements then held out 
to the Boers to join us, the only party which came 
forward in the Zulu war ; and, later on, not a Boer 
was present at the taking of Sekukuni's stronghold. 

1 See note, p. 3. 

20 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. The successive mass meetings, attended by upwards 
of 6000 men, who took their arms with them, were, 

Armed . 1 . . 

mass meet- however, sufficient testimony to the disaffected state 


of feeling throughout the country, and showed the 
alarming; extent of readiness for insurrection. For 


some time before the rising, fears had been expressed 
here and there that the Boers, through having lost all 
hope of the rendition of their country, or of obtaining 
self-government by means of remonstrances addressed 
to the imperial authorities, had grown more deter- 
mined to take active steps, and really intended open 
Boer resistance. 1 Even the women were said to be urging 


urging on 

the men. l Sir Garnet Wolseley, in his despatch to the Secretary of State for the 

Colonies, dated 29th October 1879, shows how great were his apprehen- 
sions (in this head, even at that early date : 

"' I am compelled to recognise the continuance of grave discontent. I 
am informed on all sides that it is the intention of the Boers to fight for 
independence. . . . There is no doubt, I think, that the people are in- 
cited td discontent and rebellion by ambitious agitators ; but I am com- 
pelled also to allow that the timid and wavering, who are awed into 
taking side against us, are comparatively a small party, and that the 
main body of the Dutch population are disaffected to our rule." 

This accurate estimate of the state of disaffection prevailing through- 
out the country, and clanger of insurrection, was, however, most materi- 
ally modified, six mouths later. Sir Garnet being then about to quit 
South Africa wrote, on the 10th April 1880 : 

" Reports from all parts of the Transvaal sustain the opinion that the 
people, being thoroughly weary of the uncertainty and the troubles at- 
tendant upon opposition to the Government, and seeing no hope of any 
successful issue from the dangerous measures in which they have been 
induced to place confidence, have determined to renounce all further 
disturbing action, and to return to the peaceful cares of their rural life, 
which was already beginning to suffer from the continuance of political 

"The resolution of a part of the people to deny the trade of their 
produce to Englishmen failed utterly, and expired with conspicuous 
lack of vitality before the natural forces that were fated to over- 
power it. 

" Taxes are being paid, and the revenue of the country, so long 


on the crisis, the young ones rendering their sweet- CHAP. 
hearts savage by continually taunting them, saying : 
" You talk a great deal always of what you will do, 
but it invariably ends in your doing nothing ! " 

An officer who had been moving; through the coun- Determma- 

. ! tion of the 

try the previous June, on a tour of inspection, re- Boers to 

act early 

lated how much he had been impressed by the em- expressed. 
phatic warning uttered by a highly intelligent Irish 
yeoman, at whose house he stayed a night. This 
farmer had remarked to the effect that, owing to the 
Boers regarding persons of his nationality as, like 
themselves, disaffected to British rule, they were less 
guarded and gave expression to their real opinions 
and intentions with greater freedom before him than 
they would in the presence of an Englishman ; and 
that, from what had come to his knowledge at private 
meetings of the Boers and otherwise, he felt convinced 
that they were fully resolved to proceed to extreme 
measures, and, if necessary, fight to get back their 

In fact, indications and warnings of the threaten- Warnings 

. , . . -, were not 

ing storm were certainly not missing to those who missing. 
chose to look for them, and wished to shape their 
course accordingly. 

Mr Aylward, writing towards the close of 1878, in 

disturbed, and in part suspended, is flowing in steadily in its natural 

" I believe that, with the check which has thus been imposed upon 
the organisation of discontent, a foundation has been laid for the admin- 
istration of affairs in the Transvaal, upon which there may be built, 
with the aid of time, a fabric of Government in furtherance of the pros- 
perity of the people, and in unison with their sympathies and their 

22 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, his ' Transvaal of To-day,' spoke with prophetic warn- 
ing in his final words : 

" The Transvaal question will soon become the question of 
the day, and is likely to absorb quite as much attention as 
the Abyssinian war did in its time ; and I have not the least 
doubt that, if not speedily looked to, it will cost as much 
in money. A great war of races is being provoked at the 
present moment. I doubt if this work will be in the hands 
of the public before it shall have commenced. 

" In this and in all future native wars the English in 
Africa must fight alone. In former cases, the Boers have 
refused to aid the Government against native tribes, and this 
for a most excellent reason. British wars are undertaken to 
protect one tribe against another. Natives will squabble. 
The last war in the colony was in favour of the Fingoes ; 
whilst the monstrous waste of public money now going on 
in the Transvaal is incurred because, forsooth, Captain Clarke 
must protect Pogwani and Logwani insignificant robbers, 
against Legolani and Secocoeni greater robbers. Burghers 
will not join in any hostilities undertaken on account of 
natives. Why did not Captain Clarke order the paltry 
tribe of .Pogwani to go into some inside location if they so 
badly wanted protection ? During the sovereignty l a similar 
tiling occurred ; and Noble, in his history, remarks : 

" ; The Resident now found himself committed to exten- 
sive operations against Moshesh's tribe, which numbered at 
the least 1.0,000 fighting men, whilst he had no adequate force 
to oppose against them. The burghers refused to muster for 
such service. They could not comprehend or appreciate the 
motives which induced the Government of so powerful a 
nation as Great Britain to call out farmers from their homes 
and lawful employments on the occurrence of these chronic 
squabbles among the natives. Military duty under such 
circumstances was extremely distasteful and harassing to 
them, especially as, in addition to their own personal hard- 

1 Xow the Orange Free State. 


ships and risks in the field, their families and property were CHAP. 
exposed to be plundered and ruined by the tribes against __ L 
whom they acted. Many of the farmers had already in this 
manner suffered severe losses of their flocks.' 

" To all these causes for not fighting in quarrels not their 
own, is now added the vexation they must feel at having 
been deprived of their liberties. And if they will not fight, 
neither will they pay. It is yet to be seen if any attempt 
to tax them for wars undertaken by a foreign governor, and 
without their own consent, will be resisted. 

" The English people will find out, sooner or later, that 
they must begin to keep a firmer hand on colonial governors. 
Up to the present, in Africa their action has produced little 
save heart-burnings, mischief, and expense. Their Kafir 
policy has ever been, and still is, a costly failure ; and their 
schemes for the extension of the empire in South Africa are 
tending hourly to put England to the cost of keeping dow T n 
one, if not several, insurgent populations. 

" But Sir Theophilus Shepstone's annexation of the Trans- 
vaal is, of all, the most disastrous experiment yet undertaken. 
It has cost one Kafir war, and will cost another. It has 
injured the natives, irritated the Boers, and thrown the 
whole country into a state of anarchy." l 

But although a dangerous, dogged resolution, dis- But for th 
playing the common tenacity, or famous fault of hout affair 

J & . hostilities 

the Dutch, had no doubt been previously formed by T mi s ht lm ; 

J been avoid 

the majority of the Boers in some way, by force all ed - 
others failing, to obtain redress of their grievances- 
it may yet be reasonably doubted if there would ever 
have been occasion for them to have resorted to open 
hostilities, had not the Bezuidenhout incident, an 
attempt to levy taxes which were, in amount, if not 
illegal, certainly inequitable, been most unnecessarily 

1 See also Appendix A*. 

24 THE TRANSVAAL WAE, 1880-81. 

CHAP, forced into prominence by the maladroit action of the 
local government, who thus suddenly fanned into a 
flame the smouldering discontent of the country, and 
so infuriated the people that not only did they rise 
en masse, but, worst of all, escaped from the ordinary 
control of their leaders, who were even threatened 
with death if they did not head the movement, and 
assist the former in obtaining by arms what they con- 
ceived to be their rights. 1 

There had been no intention on the part of the 
disaffected Boers to take any active steps in that 
direction until the assembly of the people, which had 
been called for the 8th January 1881. The attempted 
arrest of Bezuidenhout by a body of constables 
specially raised for the purpose there being no 
police forthcoming in the Transvaal for such duty 
followed by the despatch of a military force to 
Potchefstroom in November, in the belief that its 
presence would alone suffice to exercise such a moral 
restraint as would cause the arbitrary decisions of the 
Government to be respected, occasioned the imme- 
diate assembly of several hundred armed men to 
guard Bezuidenhout from arrest, and the advancement 
of the date originally fixed for the mass meeting by 
a month. Had nothing occurred to have obliged the 
leaders to call an earlier meeting, the Boers would 
have assembled on the 8th January in a much less 
excitable spirit, more amenable to control, and, as 
before, disposed to leave the direction of their cause 
in the hands of their leading men. Some kind of 

1 See Appendix A. 


ultimatum would have been drawn up, and presented CHAP. 
by the latter ; but time would have been afforded for 
its consideration, and the reply to be made. There 
would have been no hurried act on either side. The 
telegraph would not have been destroyed. The 
Administrator would have been able to have con- 
sulted with and been guided by the High Commis- 
sioner, who, again, would have asked for the views 
and decision of the Imperial Government, before 
any summary action was taken. The attitude of the 
leaders and people would meanwhile have been such 
as to offer some reasonable prospect for peaceful 
negotiations, and opportunities for mutual concession 
or compromise. Such, it may fairly be believed, were 
the hopes and designs of the Boer leaders, who hith- 
erto, up to the Bezuidenhout affair, had been suffi- 
ciently influential with the people to prevent their 
committing themselves to actual collision and blood- 
shed. The minutes given by Mr Hudson, Transvaal 
Colonial Secretary, of his interview, at the close 
of November, with Mr Kruger and others, serve to 
show this. 1 

On the same day that Mr Hudson had his in- Debate m 

. , ,. r T7 - T . . the Legis- 

terview with Mr Kruger, the Legislative Assem bly lative AS- 
a body consisting of fifteen members, of which six 
were ex officio and nine Crown nominees - - were 
debating at Pretoria on " the existing form of gov- 
ernment," apropos to Mr C. K. White moving a 
resolution, of which he had given previous notice : 

1 See Appendix A. 

26 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. " 1. That the Government of this province, as at pre- 
sent constituted, has failed to secure the confidence 
or the support of its inhabitants. 2. That a repre- 
sentative form of government is desirable, and has 
become necessary, to ensure the re-establishment of 
confidence and to secure the support of the inhabitants 
of the Transvaal." Mr White made an incisive speech, 
forcibly dilating upon the dangerous condition of the 
country, and insisting upon the urgency for granting 
the representative institutions promised at the time 
of the annexation three years and eight months 
before. Although Mr White stood alone in the House 
in pressing for this immediate change in the form of 
government, there is little doubt that the feelings of 
the larger section of the English-speaking population 
of the Transvaal were up to this period with him in 
respect to his motion. 1 

imprudent From the moment the act of annexation was de- 
of military chired irrevocable, and it was determined that the 


time had not arrived when a representative constitu- 
tion could be safely granted, it should have been 
apparent that we could only rule the Transvaal by 
force, and that consequently a sufficient number of 
British troops to ensure the stability of the Govern- 
ment was absolutely essential. As has been shown, 
from whatever side the general situation of the pro- 
vince in 1880 is viewed, everything pointed to this 

After the capture of Sekukuni's stronghold, and 

1 See Appendix B. 


until the apprehended danger was past which was CHAP. 
feared from the national mass meeting called for the 
6th April, but postponed owing to the anticipated 
change of Ministry in England, and expected rendi- 
tion of the country through Mr Gladstone's advent to 
power a considerable body of troops remained 
detached over the province or massed at Pretoria. 
Then the forces were reduced, Sir Garnet "Wolseley 
leaving for Natal, and soon after for England. 

The troops left in the Transvaal at this period Military 

. force in the 

numbered about 3600, consisting of one cavalry Transvaal, 

' J May 1880. 

regiment, three battalions of infantry, part of a 
battery of field artillery, one company of engineers, 
and detachments of the commissariat, transport, 
ordnance, and hospital corps ; in fact, a complete 
little force of all arms, under the command of Major- 
General the Hon. H. Clifford until the middle of 
May, when that officer was relieved by Colonel W. 

This force, had it been kept together, or only The troops 

,,,.,. . , , , being scat- 

aetacned within supporting distances, would have tered, no 
been formidable, but through being broken up and 
widely scattered, it lost much of its power. As it 
may be gathered from opinions expressed at other 
times by Sir Garnet Wolseley, that that general was 
very averse to, and recognised the imprudence of 
thus breaking up a regular military force, it can 
only be inferred that the wishes of the Adminis- 
trator in that arrangement were deferred to then, 
as unfortunately they were said to have been later 
on by Sir George Colley, when he visited the 

28 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Transvaal in August, Sir George having replaced 
Sir Garnet Wolseley as High Commissioner, Gov- 
ernor, and General Commanding for Natal and the 
Transvaal. 1 
Early It is well known that Colonel Bellairs, from the 

remon- . . . 

strances time he arrived in the country, had unceasingly drawn 

from the J & J 

officer attention to the faulty disposition of the troops, and, 

ing- while strongly deprecating any reduction, particularly 

in cavalry and transport services, had pressed for 
greater concentration ; but his well-founded appre- 
hensions were not believed in, owing, it must be 
supposed, to the nature of the reports which con- 
tinued to be received at this period by the Imperial 
Government and Sir George Colley, from the Admin- 
istrator. It is true that three of the detached 
military posts those of Heidelberg, Middleburg, and 
Lulu Mountains were given up in August and Sep- 
tember ; but, as a considerable reduction of the troops 
-nearly one - half the total strength, one cavalry 
regiment, one infantry battalion, and a large portion 
of the transport and branch services was effected at 
about the same time, the detached positions, Stand- 
erton, "Wakkerstroom, Lydenburg, Marabastadt. and 
Rustenburg, which were retained, thus became even 
more isolated and difficult to communicate with than 

! Colonel Sir G. Pomeroy-Colley, when selected for this civil and 
military appointment, stood about 245th on the list of colonels. In 
order to give him supreme military command Colonel Bellairs being 
much senior in date of commission it became necessary to give him 
temporary higher rank. He was accordingly made Local Major- 
( Jeneral. 


The time selected to effect this reduction of the CHAP. 
troops was specially ill chosen just after the Cape 

Parliament had rejected the Conference proposals ; l 
and when the Boer leaders had returned, strength- 
ened by the sympathy they had met with from their 
fellow-countrymen and well-wishers at the Cape. 

The situation, in regard to the malcontents, had The dan- 

in no way altered for the better. If there had been situation 


no fresh mass meetings or demonstrations in the the same. 
country, the explanation w r as simple : it was the cold 
dry season, when, as customary, it was necessary for 
the farmers to remain in the distant bushveld, where 
their cattle could obtain good grazing, and greater 
warmth and protection than on the highveld. That 
quiet season over, they, in ordinary course, would 
return to their homesteads, and, as arranged, assemble 
at the January meeting, when they might be ex- 
pected to become as troublesome or more 'so than 

Neither, on our side, had there been any departure NO change 
from the high-handed system of government in vogue, of govern- 
or effort made to conciliate the leaders and people, 
which could at all warrant running the risk of having 
to encounter insurrection with insufficient means to 
overcome it. It would surely have been prudent 
as at the time was forcibly urged by Colonel Bellairs 
to have delayed the consideration of reduction until 
after the January meeting, and the intentions of the 
leaders had been better ascertained. As it was, the 
action partook something of the nature of a gambler's 

1 See ante, p. f>. 



CHAP, stake on chance to effect an economy of a few 

sought for 
in wrong 

Economy was sought for in the wrong direction. 
It would have been better and safely gained by 
concentrating, instead of unwisely reducing, and yet 
not then concentrating the remaining troops. The 
out-stations, being at long distances from headquar- 
ters, cost enormously ; largely increased commissariat, 
transport, ordnance, and medical services were neces- 
sary ; great loss was incurred of stores in transit and 
on the spot from deterioration, want of cover, super- 
vision, &c.; and excessive destruction of waggons, 
animals, and transport equipment took place, as only 
those who have had experience of the roads or tracks 
of that country at different seasons can possibly 
understand. To these items for extra expenditure, 
generally entailed by such outlying, and, to the 
soldier, more or less unsatisfactory posts, might be 
added others caused by increased sickness, insub- 
ordination, and desertion. 

But for the occasional appearance of typhoid or 
enteric fever, the result of drinking water charged 
with organic matter, generally when on the march, 
the troops were particularly healthy, as might be 
expected in such a fine climate as that on the high- 
veld. Continued observation and careful investiga- 
tion into the origin of each case had enabled Brigade- 
Surgeon Skeen, the principal medical officer, to arrive 
at the conclusion that the fever was wholly due to 


germs, taken into the system by drinking impure CHAP. 
water. Statistics showed that when the troops 
remained stationary in places where proper sanitary 
precautions were taken to ensure no contamination 
to the water, the fever ceased ; and that fresh out- 
breaks could usually be traced to outside causes 
soldiers returning from marches, when the same pre- 
cautions and control could not be exercised. 

For some months after the Sekukuni war, the Consider- 
able inval- 

hospitals were filled with cases which had originated iding after 

1 . ... Sekukuni 

in this way, and considerable invaliding followed war - 
an item of expenditure that is generally forgotten in 
calculating the cost of a campaign. These men had 
to be sent down to the coast for embarkation, by an 
expensive system of ambulances, taking several weeks 
in transit ; and their places had to be filled by drafts 
of trained men from the depots, who in turn had to 
be replaced by fresh recruits, raised to meet this extra 

The causes of this evil in South Africa will be more causes of 
easily understood, when it is explained that the fever in 

. . , . . South 

streams met with at the various halting-places on Africa. 
the roads were, more especially in the dry season, 
liable to organic impurity from the numerous dead 
oxen lying about. The heavy road traffic, greatly 
increased when a campaign is being carried on, or 
large bodies of troops are occupying the country, 
being conducted by means of ox-waggons, moving 
about thirteen miles a -day, the number of oxen 
turned adrift to die sick from some epidemic, or 
exhausted from bad roads and deficient [*rass was 

32 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, very large. The poor animals would then generally 
~ seek water, and often drop down and die in the 


Attempts The officer commanding the troops endeavoured, 
with some success, to allay the mischief, by directing 

transport officers and military parties, when on the 
move, to draw the dead oxen away from the imme- 
diate vicinity of streams, and issued orders for the 
drinking water to be invariably taken from above 
streams. But even the vultures, which assembled in 
such crowds to feed on the carcasses, though useful as 
scavengers, were suspected of defeating all these pre- 
cautions, by repairing to the water after they had 
over-eaten themselves and disgorging into the streams, 
flowing but sluggishly in dry seasons. A suggestion 
made by Dr Skeen, that wells such as used in 
Eastern countries with weighted pole would answer 
should be sunk along the main roads, was considered 
good, but in advance of the means of the country to 
cany out successfully. 

From the foregoing it may be surmised that, had 
the troops not been so detached, fewer parties would 
have been on the march, and fewer casualties would 
consequently have arisen from sickness. 

Discipline invariably deteriorates in some par- 
ticulars, when troops like those referred to have 
been campaigning for a long period in such a country 
as South Africa, or when, broken up into fragmentary 
detachments, they occupy a territory so extensive as 
the Transvaal, and small armed parties are frequently 


marching from station to station, or to the coast, CHAP. 
traversing long lonely roads for weeks together under 
insufficient control. It is not surprising if, in the 
latter circumstances, many instances of depredation 
occurred, committed by passing soldiers on inhabi- 
tants or farms at wayside places. These acts some- 
times seemed to show that the men looked upon 
themselves as in an enemy's country, where they need 
not be over particular. In many cases, no doubt, the 
sufferers did not consider it worth their while to lodge 
complaints with the Landdrost, who often resided 
miles away at an inconvenient distance ; and be- 
sides, the culprits might have, meanwhile, had time 
to get into another district before any formal identi- 
fication or arrest could be made. In other cases, 
the owners having ridden after and obtained resti- 
tution of some articles taken, would be satisfied, 
and decline to take further steps ; or compensa- 
tion having been offered, the affair would be thus 

The military authorities, however, while carrying Checks to 

11 r arrest 

out as many checks as possible upon the conduct ol crime. 

parties proceeding through the country, gave every 
encouragement and assistance in their power for the 
detection and punishment of such crime ; indeed, 
with such good effect that, during the month pre- 
ceding hostilities, there were more than a score of 
soldiers at one time in prisons undergoing sentences 
for various civil offences of a bad type shooting 
cattle and sheep, and carrying off the carcasses, horse- 
stealing, breaking into stores, &c. 




CHAP. It has sometimes been urged that British troops 
when stationed in a colony cost no more to the 

Great loss 

through Imperial Government than if at home. This was 


certainly a fallacious estimate in regard to the Trans- 
vaal, where the expenditure in transport, stores, and 
in other ways was, as shown in the preceding para- 
graphs, 1 largely in excess. A fertile source of this 
extra cost, and at the same time weakness, was that 
arising from the large number of men deserting 
only' approached during the period we had garrisons 
stationed throughout Canada an item of expenditure 
which, like that on account of invaliding, 2 is very 
generally forgotten, when making such a comparison 
or counting up the cost of an army of occupation. 
Deserters This crime had always been rife among the troops 

to Trans- . _ . . 

vaai prior stationed in south Amca, and a large proportion 01 
tion. the deserters had found their way to the Transvaal 
before our arrival there, many of whom had become 
thriving citizens. It was not thought expedient to 
molest these men unless they had recently deserted, 
and they were accordingly furnished with certificates 
to protect them from arrest. The Orange Free State 
lias .similarly benefited from a like supply of labour, 
sometimes skilled, from the same source ; and the 
1 )iamoncUfields and other mining districts have plenty 
of such men. 3 

Just prior to the withdrawal of the King's Dragoon 
Guards, an officer of that corps crossed over into the 

1 Sre ante, pp. 30-32. 2 g ee ant6j p p _ 30-32. 

r> Many of the Filibusters now in Bechuanalancl are said to be de- 
serters from our forces. 


Free State to attend the Harrismith races. Stopping CHAP. 
on his way at a smith's one of his horses having cast 
a shoe he recognised the name over the door as one 
familiar to him, and the man himself coming out, 
proved to be a deserter of a few weeks before from his 
own regiment, who had set up a forge, and was driving 
a very paying trade. The officer's horse was shod, 
but a heavy price had to be paid for the favour ! 

With startling; evidence occasionally brought before inciuce- 

J & ments to 

him of the prosperity enjoyed by former deserters, Desert. 
and feeling acutely the contrast between his small 
army pay, scanty fare, and tent life, and the enormous 
wages, with plentiful board and lodgings, offered to 
him if he would desert, it is not to be wondered at 
that the British soldier should so frequently have 
been tempted to run all risks to change his lot. 

The risks were certainly great : mounted look-out Risks at- 
parties hovering around, and following up a chase for desertion. 
fifty or even a hundred miles, in the hope of gaining 
the large reward 5 offered for capture ; heavy 
punishments on conviction ; danger of starvation or 
death from exposure. The bodies of two artillery- 
men were reported in the papers to have been seen 
on the veld between Potchefstroom and the Diamond- 
fields: the unfortunate men having evidently suc- 
cumbed and perished miserably from hunger and cold. 

The inducements to desert were, however, too often 

11 i r -T r rviT offered for 

irresistible, and iacilities were frequently anorded to desertion. 
take men beyond the reach of the patrols. A builder 
was suspected of having placed horses at the disposal 
of two soldiers, which enabled them to reach a 

36 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, village, a hundred miles off, where he was carrying 

out a contract. 

offer made Two officers, who were out shooting in the country 

officers. in plain clothes, went to a Boer's house. The man, 

in the course of conversation, told them that he was 

willing to give 7, 10s. a -month, with board and 

lodging, to any person who could keep his books, 

and do other clerical work for him ; and ended by 

asking if either of them would accept the situation ! 

Boer While mentioning the inducements to desert, we 

women - . . 

marry must not omit that the lair young Boer woman some- 
deserters. . 

times exercised her influence. A look-out officer, as 

he was termed, in charge of the mounted patrols, 
had reason to suspect that a deserter was harboured 
in a certain farmhouse, which he insisted on entering. 
When the door was opened, only the daughter of the 
house could he seen ; but presently, looking up the 
chimney, he espied his man. It transpired afterwards 
that the poor fellow was about to be married to the 
girl, and had arranged with her father to settle down 
on the farm. 

The Boers generally rendered assistance quietly to 
men passing by their farms, and endeavouring to 
escape over the border ; and no doubt deserters who 
had already succeeded in getting clear away, in some 
cases communicated with their former comrades as 
to the best line of country to follow. Cavalry men 
sometimes departed with their chargers ; and infantry 
men, if they could ride, supplied themselves with 
their officers' or some one else's horses. They fre- 
quently, also, took with them their rifles, ammuni- 


tion, and blankets, probably disposing of them to the CHAP. 
Boers in order to pay their way. 

The men thus lost were all trained soldiers of some Large cost 

of d.6 

standing, by no means always the " black sheep " of tion. 
their corps, but often of long-tried service and char- 
acter, who could be ill spared, and only replaced at 
considerable cost and the lapse of some months. 

The expenses attending keeping up mounted look- 
out parties on the roads, payments for rewards and 
information, conveyance of deserters, increased prison 
accommodation, losses of horses, rifles, ammunition, 
and clothing, &c., formed a heavy item. To this 
must be added the loss of the services of those de- 
serters retaken for from one to two years' detention 
in prison after conviction, and period of absence 
before and the cost of replacing those who were 
never recovered. Altogether, 200 for every man 
raised, trained, and sent to such a distant part five 
weeks' march into the interior after disembarking 
to fill each vacancy created by desertion, would not 
be an overestimate. 

Numerous cases of desertion occurred at the com- 
mencement of the year 1880, after the close of the 
Sekukuni war ; then the number lessened, until the 
warmer months coming round again, admitting of less 
exposure in crossing over the high open plains, the 
cases again rapidly increased. They rose to the 
highest number during the month of August, when, 
out of a force then about 3000 men, 70 went off, of 
whom perhaps one-third were subsequently recovered. 

We have not before us precise statistics, but, never- 

38 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, theless, sufficient data to enable us to form a belief 

that we shall be under the mark when we compute 

the loss by desertion in 1880 to have been 260 men, 

representing, at the foregoing estimate, a money loss 

of no less than 52,000. 

Discomfort The troops left iii the Transvaal had been sub- 

of soldier's . , 

life in jected to much hard work and exposure the previous 
year, in the Zulu and Sekukuni campaigns ; some had 
even been engaged in the Galeka and Gaeka war of 
1877-78. Their lot had not been cast in pleasant, 
lively garrisons, surrounded by comforts, amuse- 
ments, and civilising influences ; but then, at least, 
they had a certain degree of the excitement and 
occupation incidental to campaigning life, which was 
missing when quartered in the Transvaal, until the 
close of 1880. Although their officers did as much 
as lay in their power to create a few amusements for 
them, still the soldiers found their existence at the 
out-stations monotonous and dreary in the extreme. 
Some took the matter into their own hands and 
deserted, while the rest anxiously anticipated the 
order to move down country to the coast. 

Tent life is, with fine weather, and other surround- 
ings being propitious, an agreeable novelty for a 
short time, or even longer, with some definite object 
in view ; but when it comes to spending years, in all 
seasons, under canvas, the feelings are apt to alter 
and take a different view, especially if other cir- 
Soidiers cimistances contribute to render it distasteful. Now 
fed. the soldier was under-fed for such a life as he was 


leading, on an elevated plateau several thousand CHAP. 
feet above the sea. The field-ration he had enjoyed - 
during the campaigns was reduced to the ordinary 
ration given to soldiers in quarters. The 1 Ib. meat, 
including bone, did not, during the dry season in the 
Transvaal, when, for want of good grass, the cattle 
became exceedingly poor, afford the same nourish- 
ment as a similar quantity elsewhere, while the 
amount of bone was proportionately greater. It was 
difficult for the soldier, with his small means, to pur- 
chase extra articles, as customary, to supplement his 
messing. Eggs, butter, and milk could not generally 
be obtained, and, if forthcoming, sold at extravagant 

With a view to reducing; the surplus stores accu- Their dis- 

, . 7 , Hke to 

mulatecl lor past campaigning purposes, an order was biscuits 
received to issue preserved meat and biscuit twice meats. 
a-week. As may be imagined, this order ran counter 
to the prevalent prejudice entertained by our lower 
classes to tinned meats. 

A deserter left a letter on his bed containing the Anecdote 

, f another 

following words : " Private s kit is complete, i deserter. 

am going- to see if i can get a little better dinner 

O o o 

somewhere else than i got here to-day old Bully 
meat ! " 

In order to cope effectively with the possible ris- Danger 

J . resulting 

ing of a mounted population like the Boers hunt- fromwith- 

f x drawal of 

ers from their childhood, and consequently prac- cavalry. 
tised horsemen and excellent shots at long distances, 
combined with thorough knowledge of country it 

40 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, was obviously essential that a sufficient mounted 
force should remain at hand ready to meet such an 

A mounted n . . . , 

force essen- emergency. Only so could the communications be 


with Boers, kept up, assistance rendered to the well-disposed, or 
protection afforded beyond the immediate vicinity of 
infantry posts ; and only so could support and ade- 
quate security be given to infantry or artillery on 
the march. A body of infantry, moving with guns 
and supplies, would otherwise be always liable to be 
taken at a disadvantage by such a foe, wherever rocks 
or other cover were forthcoming, offering facilities for 
attack or disputing the way, and certainly such spots 
were easily met with along all the roads spots which 
could not always be avoided by a column obliged to 
carry its supplies with it. By the enemy hanging 
on the flanks and rear, as well as impeding the ad- 
vance in front, the artillery horses and transport 
animals would soon be destroyed, and the guns and 
supplies imperilled. 

The reason Such being the case which should have been as 
vairy were clear before the outbreak as it was after, why was it 

withdrawn. , , T7 - . , -,-. /-NIT 

that the King s Dragoon Guards, the only cavalry 
regiment not alone in the Transvaal, but in South 
Africa was withdrawn ? Why was all proper cau- 
tion set aside, when an element of risk still remained, 
and a game of chance instead played, 1 all being 
staked on the settled but erroneous conviction 
entertained by some officials, that the Boers were 
wanting in pluck, and would not therefore become 
dangerous. 2 

1 See ante, p. 29. 2 See ante, pp. 14-17. 


The Imperial Government would certainly not CHAP. 
have sanctioned such a risky reduction, but that they 
had been led astray, through receiving what they 
deemed reliable reports, satisfying them that all 
danger was past, and no further fear need be enter- 
tained of insurrection. 

By October the regiment was on its way to India. Effect of 
Its departure announced far and wide by advertise- of King's 

in i Dragoon 

ments 01 the sale oi its horses, &c., could not have Guards. 
failed to attract great attention, and have deeply 
influenced the disaffected Boers in all their subse- 
quent movements and decisions. 

A mounted troop of the Transport Service Corps 
followed, but, together with a detachment of the 
King's Dragoon Guards, were detained in Natal, 
awaiting transport to proceed to their depots in Eng- 
land, when, hostilities breaking out, they were im- 
mediately remounted, at some trouble and expense, 
and utilised by Sir George Colley at Laing's Nek, in 
the January following. 

The only remaining mounted military force left in Mounted 
the Transvaal consisted of about one hundred men, 
taken from the two infantry battalions. This body 
was used, partly to furnish escorts to Government 
officials engaged in visiting or collecting taxes in the 
native districts, and partly in look-out parties to 
check desertion. A proposal made by Colonel Bel- 
lairs, on the removal of the King's Dragoon Guards, 
to largely increase the number of mounted infantry, 
profiting by the horses and saddlery of the departing 
regiment for that purpose, was not entertained, the 



CHAP, political outlook being considered such as not to 
warrant such an expenditure. 

tune mo- 
to oft'er 
to Cape 

As if to show yet further how little apprehen- 
sive they were of any disturbance taking place, the 
local government took this inopportune time, the 
close of October soon after the loss of the cavalry 
regiment, with a reduction of the total military force 
by nearly one-half, to offer assistance to the Cape 
Government then prosecuting a war against the 
Basutos by raising and equipping, in Pretoria, a 
mounted volunteer corps of 300 men, under Comman- 
dant Ferriera, C.M.G., a volunteer officer who had 
greatly distinguished himself in previous border war- 
fare. As the Government had no ordnance stores 
available for this purpose, the consent of Sir George 
Colley was obtained for the required rifles, &c., to 
be supplied from the military store. 1 Two field- 
guns were also issued from the local government 

Thus, 300 more armed men of the material best 
adapted to act as a mounted levy in the coming 
struggle together with an experienced commander, 
whose knowledge of the country and people would 
have proved most valuable, were lost ; drawn away 
to take part in a native war with which the province 

1 The rilles intended to replace those supplied to Ferriera's Horse 
urgently demanded by the officer commanding the troops in the Trans- 
vaal in October were, apparently, only sent from Pietermaritzburg in 
the enrly part of December. The delay was fatal, and they failed to 
reach their destination. See paragraph 4 of Sir George Colley's letter 
to Sir Owen Lanyon, in Blue-book [c. 2783], February 1881. Enclos- 
ure 3 to No. 14. 


had no concern whatever, and from the results of CHAP. 
which it had nothing to fear. 

When November arrived prior to the develop- Military 
ment of the Bezuidenhout affair the military forces Transvaal, 


were thus spread over the country, viz. : isso. 

Pretoria (199 miles from Newcastle). Headquarters and 
five companies of 2d battalion Boyal Scots Fusiliers ; 
mounted troop of do. ; four guns, X battery, 5th brigade, 
Royal Artillery ; one company Eoyal Engineers. 

Rusteriburg (67 miles from Pretoria). Two companies of 
2d battalion Eoyal Scots Fusiliers. 

Marabastadt (165 miles from Pretoria). Two companies of 
94th Regiment. 

Lydciibery (188 miles from Pretoria). Headquarters and 
two companies of 94th Regiment, 

WaJcJcerstroom (162 miles from Pretoria ; 33 miles from 
Newcastle). One company of 94th Regiment ; mount- 
ed troop of do. 

Standerton (114 miles from Pretoria; 85 miles from New- 
castle). One company of 94th Regiment. 

In Natal there were two infantry battalions the Force in 
58th Regiment, recently withdrawn from the Trans- 
vaal, and the 3d battalion 60th Rifles two guns, 
Royal Artillery, one company Royal Engineers, and 
one company of the 94th Regiment, the last being- 
stationed at Newcastle, the nearest military post to 
the Transvaal border. 

The transport service in the Transvaal having been insufficient 


reduced, 1 there were no longer the same means lor for mobil- 
mobilising the whole of the troops as previously. 

1 See ante, pp. 26-28. 

44 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Transport was only kept up for mobilising a small 
column at Pretoria, one company at Eustenburg, and 
one company at Marabastadt. The remaining out- 
lying garrisons were now regarded as stationary posts. 
False im- The strange belief entertained by the governing 
entertained powers would appear to have been, that the presence 
ment of of a British detachment, however small, even of 
effect of infantry alone though surrounded by an armed 


posts. mounted population, should suffice to overawe and 
control the district in which it was placed no mat- 
ter how distant from support and so prevent any 
thought of insurrection. 

Detached In the Kafir wars of 1851-53, and 1877-78, small 
Kafir infantry posts, separated by only a short march, were 
usefully employed, and suited to the character of the 
operations necessary to subdue the enemy ; but here, 
in the Transvaal, were isolated, weak infantry detach- 
ments, from 70 to 200 miles apart, without cavalry 
support or transport, in the midst of an armed dis- 
affected white people, and in a country where the 
rivers and streams, at certain seasons, become impass- 
able for days or even weeks together. Was it sup- 
nosed that, because such posts might serve to keep in 
check a native population, they would equally answer 
the same purpose with the Boers ? It would seem so. 

Each war that we have undertaken of late years 
in South Africa has necessitated complete change in 
tactics and mode of operations, to meet the altered 
circumstances which arose in each case. The same 
has happened in New Zealand and Indian campaigns. 


No army but that of England lias had so frequently CHAP. 
to adapt itself to sudden change to re-educate itself 
at short notice, for the ever-varying localities of 

The Kafir war of 1877-78, on the Cape eastern 
frontier, partook mainly of the character of bush- 
fighting the natives taking to the dense bush and 
forests, and having to be driven out by skirmishing 
parties. Then followed the Zulu war, when we be- 
came the defending, the natives the assailing party 
-we in square or laager formations, awaiting the 
enemy's onslaught. In the Sekukuni operations, this 
latter method was reversed, we having to attack the 
natives, hidden behind their strong rocky fastnesses. 

The Boer hostilities introduced a different element 
from our previous experiences in warfare an enemy 
wholly mounted, with the hunter's training and eye 
for cover and distance. As shown, 1 we neglected 
to provide an adequate mounted force to meet this 
new contingency, with the result that the detached 
garrisons in the Transvaal were reduced to act chiefly 
on the defensive ; while the general officer on the 
Natal border, not having the patience to await his 
cavalry reinforcements, then on their way from Eng- 
land and India, suffered defeat for the want of them. 

It was during the early part of the month of The Be- 

AT i i i i III/-N zuidenliout 

.November that the proceedings taken by the Govern- aitair. 
ment in the Bezuidenhout affair which had been 
going on for some weeks culminated in a crisis and 

1 See ante, pp. 39-41. 

46 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, rising of the people. As we have already remarked, 1 
the case arose out of an attempt to enforce the 
payment of taxes which were, in amount, if not 
illegal, certainly inequitable. The case was, however, 
but the last of many previous wrongful attempts at 
official exaction. 

In the account which Mr Hudson, the Colonial 
Secretary, gives of his interview with Mr Kruger 
and the Boer Committee which took place at Kaul- 
fontein, near Potchefstroom, on the 29th November, 
an account, given in the Appendix, which we espe- 
cially recommend to the notice of our readers, Mr 
Cronje, who subsequently commanded the Boers at 
the siege of Potchefstroom, is mentioned as express- 
ing his desire to state " all the circumstances which 
have led to the present difficulties," and as proceed- 
ing as follows : 


" Mr Bezuidenhout was served with a tax notice to pay 
'2~, os. He appeared at the office of the Landdrost of 
L'otchefstroom, and told him he was willing to pay 14, 
\vhich was all that could legally lie demanded. The Land- 
drost refused to receive it, but said Bezuidenhout must pay 
27, 5s.; but lie declined to do so. He was then summoned 
for 27, 5s., and appeared, presenting' his last receipts, and 
tendered again 14. The Landdrost answered as before. 
Bezuidenhout Hatly refused to pay. Subsequently judgment 
was given for 14, with 8 costs, and the waggon was attached 
for the 14. If this matter is looked into, it will be seen 
how illegally the Government has acted." 

Xo dates are given in the foregoing summary of 
particulars, but we believe we are correct in stating 

1 Sec ante, pp. 23-25. 


that, in the considerable intervals which elapsed CHAP. 
between the several times that the case came before 
the Landdrost, Mr Goetz was in correspondence with 
and throughout acted under the instructions sent to 
him from headquarters. There would appear to have 
been no hasty or inconsiderate action on his part, all 
responsibility for his decisions and action resting on 
the Government. To make Mr Cronje's statement 
still clearer, it should further be mentioned that Mr 
Bezuidenhout was possessed of certain half or por- 
tions of farms, which were assessed at the full or 
same rate of tax as levied on full farms, reckoned 
at 6000 acres each. The law probably through an 
omission, or because the division of farms was not 
at the moment foreseen only specified one rate for 
farms, meaning the recognised farms of 6000 acres 
each. For half farms, at half rates only, Mr Bezui- 
denhout's tender of 14 in payment of all taxes 
due by him was correct, and should have been 

From the fact of the Landdrost having finally 
revised his decision, and given judgment for 14, it 
would seem that the Government had tardily recog- 
nised their error to that extent. But, not satisfied 
with having put Mr Bezuidenhout to great unneces- 
sary trouble, as well as expense, in employing an 
attorney to resist a wrongful claim, he was mulcted 
in costs for proving that he was right. 1 

As Mr Bezuidenhout refused payment, a waggon 
belonging to him was attached in execution, and 

1 See Appendix A. 

48 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, steps taken to sell the same in front of the Land- 
drost's office at Potchefstroom on the llth November. 
The sale was interrupted by an assembly of about 
one hundred Boers, who forcibly took the waggon 
away. 1 

The Landdrost having reported this interference 
with his authority, the Administrator considered that 
serious notice should be taken of the act, and that 
the occasion demanded that prompt measures should 
be adopted to support the civil authority. He accord- 
ingly requested the officer in command of the troops 
to despatch a military force at once to Potchefstroom, 
and, at the same time, sent Captain Kaaf, C.M.G., to 
enrol special constables, and assist th'e Landdrost in 
carrying out the process of his Court, and causing his 
judgments to be respected. 

Troops The detachment of troops consisting of one com- 

potcia-f- pany of the 2d Battalion 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers, 
half the mounted troop of the same corps, and two 
-pounder guns of the Royal Artillery under the 
command of Major Thornhill, R.A., left Pretoria on 
the 14th November, and reached Potchefstroom a few 
days later, being there joined by another company of 
the 2d Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, sent direct 

1 In his letter of the 14th November, calling upon Colonel Bellairs 
to despatch troops to Potchefstroom in aid of the civil power, Sir Owen 
Lanynii gives a different version of the cause of Bezuidenhout's non- 
payment of tuxes. lie says "This waggon had been taken under 
authority of the Court for non-payment of taxes, Bezuidenhout having 
refused to pay the same, not because he was unable to do so, but on the 
grounds that lie would not recognise her Majesty's Government." No 
mention is made of the real facts of the case. See Blue-book (c. 2740), 
page 1 10. 


from Rustenburg. 1 This force was equipped as a CHAP. 
flying column, in readiness for any emergency ; and 
although the Government did not anticipate that its 
services would be more than temporarily required, 
Colonel Bellairs took the precaution to desire the 
officer in command to intrench himself outside the 
town, and form a similar defensible position to those 
occupied at the permanent out-stations ; while large 
supplies of ammunition and commissariat stores were 
forwarded, in addition to those fourteen days' rations 
required for a field column. 

Shortly after, finding that the position grew more Mr Hud- 
serious ; that Captain Kaaf, even with his body of report. 
special constables, was unequal to arrest defaulters 
protected by over three hundred armed men ; and that 

1 Extract from the ' Siege of Potchefstroom,' by Lieutenant H. M. L. 
Bundle, R.A. : "On Saturday, 13th November 1880, it was rumoured 
in the camp at Pretoria that a riot had taken place at Potchefstroom, 
the old capital of the Transvaal. Three hundred Boers had ridden into 
the town and forcibly taken away a waggon, which was being sold by 
order of the Landdrost for arrears of taxes. It was known by 5 P.M. 
that, at the request of the Government, a small force was under orders 
to march on the following day at one o'clock for Potchefstroom. The 
troops at this time stationed at Pretoria were : headquarters and four 
guns N/5, R.A. ; headquartei'S 2d Company R.E., strength about 
45 ; headquarters 2/2 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers, strength about 350 ; 
one troop of mounted infantry, strength about 35 ; a few men of 
the Army Service and Army Hospital Corps. Out of this force the 
following were formed into a ' Field Force,' under the command of 
Major C. Thornhill, R.A., and marched for Potchefstroom in less than 
24 hours from the time the orders were received viz., two guns, N/5, 
R.A. ; 25 mounted infantry ; one company Royal Scots Fusiliers 
strength, 75. This force marched into Potchefstroom at 2 P.M. on the 
18th, having thus done the 104 miles in 96 hours. On the 20th the 
force was further strengthened by the arrival of another company of 
the Royal Scots Fusiliers from Rustenburg, under the command of 
Lieutenant R. A. Browne strength, 49 N.C.O.'s and men." 

50 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Mr Goetz, the Landdrost, was desirous of being re- 
lieved he wishing to avoid the responsibility of a 
collision with the Boers, which he was of opinion 
would cause a general rising, 1 the Administrator 
deemed it necessary to send the Colonial Secretary to 
take temporary civil charge at Potchefstroom until the 
arrival of Major Clarke, Special Commissioner for the 
Northern Districts, on the 30th November. 

If reference is again made to Mr Hudson's report of 
his meeting with the Boer leaders, it will be observed 
that the Colonial Secretary is mentioned as replying 
to Mr Cronje's statement of Mr Bezuidenhout's case : 
" The Government is not aware of the case as you have 
stated it," meaning, we presume, that he personally 
had been left in ignorance of the particulars as then 
given. That the progress of the question at issue, 
when it was under consideration at headquarters, 
should have been apparently withheld from the 
Colonial Secretary, is sufficiently singular ; but that 
Mr Hudson should have been sent to Potchefstroom 
without a correct knowledge of all the details con- 


corning the matter which, it is to be supposed, he 
was to endeavour to arrange, seems most extraor- 

1 In his report of the 22d November, Mr Goetz thus writes : 
" 2. Judging from Captuiii Raaf s report and the character of the 
Boers, whom I have known for many years, I am of opinion that if a 
collision with them should take place, the matter will not end here, but 
a general rising may be expected. 

" 3. I'nder the present state of affairs as I have taken all the steps in 
my power, and as I have failed to enforce obedience to the law I would 
earnestly suggest to the Government to send or appoint some one here, 
with full power to act should military force be used, as I cannot take the 
responsibility of the result of such an important matter." See Blue- 
bock (c. 2740), page 123. 


dinary. He was evidently greatly impressed with CHAP. 
the statement of facts given him by Mr Cronje, as 
well as the proceedings on the case supplied to him 
by the Landdrost, and winds up his report with the 
following significant words : " The political results 
which would appear to have arisen out of this case 
require, I think, that Government should investigate 
it." We are not told that any such inquiry as that 
recommended by Mr Hudson would be or was made ; 
neither are the Landdrost's proceedings in the case 
enclosed with Sir Owen Lanyon's covering despatch. 

On the 16th November, Colonel Bellairs is found Military 

. . force in 

representing to the Administrator that, consequent Pretoria 


on the departure of the troops for Potchefstroom, the to form 
force left in Pretoria was inadequate "to send out a column. 
strong field column should any pressing emergency 
arise to require it ; " and recommending the with- 
drawal of the troops from Marabastadt (two com- 
panies of the 94th Eegiment) and Eustenburg (one 
company of the 2d Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers), 
as he was of opinion that having at disposal a stronger 
body of troops at Pretoria was of greater importance 
than maintaining those military outposts. 1 Sir Owen 

1 From Colonel W. Bellairs, C.B., Commanding Transvaal District, 
to the Administrator, Transvaal'. 

' PRETORIA, November 16, 1880. 

" Consequent on the recent despatch of troops to Potchefstroom, and 
this garrison having been thus materially reduced, I shall no longer be 
able, iinless reinforced, to send out a strong field column from this 
station, should any pressing emergency arise to require it. 

"At this moment, leaving, say, 150 infantry for the protection of 
Pretoria, there would remain available for field purposes only two guns, 

52 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Lanyon, however, in his reply of the following date, 1 
demurred to the removal of the troops from these 
stations, but remarked that " there would be no ob- 
jection to a temporary withdrawal of some of the 
troops from Lydenburg." 2 No immediate action 

Royal Artillery, part of a company of Royal Engineers, a few mounted 
men, and about 240 infantry. 

" In the present condition of this province there should be a sufficient 
force maintained at Pretoria to render it possible to detail a field column 
consisting of at least four guns, a company of Royal Engineers, a troop 
of mounted infantry, and 500 infantry or about 700 men. 

" Under these circumstances I have the honour 'to recommend the 
withdrawal of the troops now stationed at Marabastadt (two companies 
94th Foot) and Rustenburg (one company 2d Battalion 21st Foot) to 
Pretoria, as I am of opinion that having at disposal a stronger body of 
troops at Pretoria is of greater importance than maintaining the military 
outposts referred to." 

1 From the Administrator, Transvaal, to the Colonel Commanding, 

" PRETORIA, November 17, 1880. 

" In reply to your letter of yesterday's date, I have the honour to 
state that it would be better to reduce the garrison at Lydenburg than 
to withdraw either of the detachments at Rustenburg or Marabastadt. 
The former place is one of the centres of disaffection amongst the Boers, 
and the moral effect of having troops there has already been productive 
of good. 

" 2. The force at Marabastadt, on the other hand, exercises considerable 
influence over the natives, who are most numerous in that district ; and 
I am informed by the Secretary for Native Affairs that already the late 
action of the Cape Government in Basutoland has, to a certain extent, 
caused a feeling of uneasiness amongst them. This feeling is, I fear, 
1 icing fostered by a certain section of the Boers. 

" 3. There would be no objection, however, to a temporary withdrawal 
of some of the troops from Lydenburg, but I think such should only be 
done to meet the present necessity to which you refer." 

- From the Administrator, Transvaal, to the Colonel Commanding, 


XovemlerlZ, 1880. 

' In view of the present state of affairs in the Transvaal, and the mass 
meeting about to be held by the Boers in January next in the vicinity 


being pressed, the question was then referred for the CHAP. 
decision of Sir George Colley. 1 

In a few days the Administrator seems to have Troops or- 
dered in 
become more alive to the desirability of assembling; a fromMara 

J bastadt 

larger force at Pretoria. On the 23d November he a 

. ... burg. 

writes, asking Colonel Bellairs to bring in one of the 
companies from Marabastadt, and the headquarters 
of the 94th Regiment from Lydenburg ; also to con- 
centrate the mounted infantry. In ordinary course, 
the Major-General's authority would have been applied 
for before ordering these moves to be carried out ; 

of Pretoria, I think it is desirable that as many troops as possible should 
be concentrated at Pretoria. 

" I should therefore be obliged if you would take the necessary steps 
to accomplish this object, by bringing in one company from Marabastadt, 
and the headquarters of the 94th Regiment from Lydenburg, leaving 
such men as yon may think necessary for the protection of the military 
stores and the town. 

" P.S. It would also be well to concentrate as many of the mounted 
infantry here as possible." 

1 From Colonel W. Bellairs, C.B., Commanding Transvaal District, 
to the Deputy Adjutant-General, Pietermaritzburg. 

" PRETORIA, November 18, 1880. 

"1. This correspondence, pointing to the urgent necessity for greater 
concentration or reinforcements for the garrison of Pretoria, is transmitted 
for the information of the Major-General Commanding, and for such 
instructions as he may be pleased to give on the subject. 

" 2. His Excellency Sir Owen Lanyon suggests the temporary with- 
drawal of a portion of the troops from Lydenburg ; but the removal of 
one of the two companies 94th Foot from that station would not, in my 
opinion, suffice or fully meet the object in view viz., that the garrison 
of Pretoria should be of such strength as to admit of sending out a field 
column of four guns, a company Royal Engineers, a troop of mounted 
infantry, and 500 infantry, whenever serious emergency called for it. 

" 3. Should Sir George Colley decide on withdrawing a company from 
Lydenburg, will you kindly, to save postal delay, telegraph to that 
effect 1 There is only a weekly mail (Tuesdays) to Lydenburg, and with 
ox-transport the company would be twelve or more days on the road at 
this season." 

54 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, but the telegraph to Natal that day being defective, 
and Colonel Bellairs viewing the matter as urgent, 
the necessary orders were at once despatched. 

To this end, native runners were procured and sent 
off to Marabastadt, carrying instructions that, in 
addition to one company of the 94th Eegiment, a 
detachment of the mounted troop of that corps 
which had been escorting the Secretary for Native 
Affairs, collecting hut taxes, for the previous five 
months should be sent in. The other detachments 
of the troop, at Newcastle, Wakkerstroom, and Stan- 
derton, were ordered, by telegraph, to meet at the 
last station, and thence march to Pretoria. The 
orders for Lydenburg were conveyed by a mounted 
sergeant of the Transport Corps, with a led horse, 
the weekly post-cart having already left that morning. 
Headquarters and two companies of the 94th Kegi- 
ment were to come in, less about 50 men, to remain 
in charge of the camp and stores. 1 

1 From Colonel W. Bellairs, C.B., Commanding Transvaal District, 
to the Deputy Adjutant-General, Pietermaritzburg. 

" PRETORIA, November 25, 1880. 

" 1. After consultation with the Administrator, and in compliance with 
the request contained in his Excellency's letter of the 23d instant (copy 
enclosed), I sent orders by special messenger the same day, overtaking 
the post-cart, which had already left that morning, for the headquarters 
and two companies of the 94th Foot less about 50 men, including sick, 
to remain for the protection of barracks, stores, &c. to proceed without 
delay by ordinary route march from Lydenburg to Pretoria. 

" 2. Also by special native runner, for one company 94th Foot to 
march from Marabastadt to Pretoria, together with a detatchment of 
the mounted troop of the same corps, which has been on escort with 
the Minister for Native Affairs, collecting hut taxes for the past five 

" 3. And, by telegraph and letter, for the detachments mounted troop 


Looking back, after the terrible disaster which sub- CHAP. 
sequently overtook the Lydenburg detachment of the 

. . Delay in 

94th Regiment, one cannot but see that the delay in requisition 

for the 

writing or delivering Sir Owen Lanyon's letter of the movement 

& J . of the 

23d November was a most untoward event. 1 It troops. 
reached Colonel Bellairs, when in his office, at about 
noon the same day. Although he instantly sent off 
his staff officer Captain Churchill at a gallop to 
delay the post-cart, in case it should not have left, 
as usual, while he remained writing the requisite 
orders, it was too late ; and, as before mentioned, it 
became necessary to despatch the sergeant, in the 
endeavour to overtake the cart, as it was hoped he 
might be able to do, at a place about forty-five miles 
off, where it sometimes stayed for a few hours during 
the night. In this attempt he proved unsuccessful, 
the cart having passed on after only a short halt. 

O J. J 

94th Foot, now at Wakkerstroom, Newcastle, and Standerton, to con- 
centrate at this last station and then march to Pretoria. 

" 4. The commissariat stores in the town at Lydenlmrg, and the sick, 
in hospital, have been directed to be brought into the new barrack huts, 
thus saving rent for buildings hired, and rendering the defence of the 
post easier. 

" 5. The above troops may be expected to reach Pretoria about the 12th 
proximo, provided satisfactory transport arrangements can be made on 
the spot. 

"P.tS'. When the decision regarding the above moves was arrived at, 
telegraphic communication with Pietermarit/burg was defective ; but 
on the 24th instant a telegram reporting the action taken was sent 
to you." 

1 So little importance was apparently attached to the immediate 
execution of this request for reinforcements, that no effort was made, by 
an order from the Administrator's office, to delay the departure of the 
post-cart the only weekly means of quick communication with Lyden- 
lmrg leaving that forenoon, and so enabling the officer commanding to 
despatch his orders by that opportunity. 

56 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. The sergeant's horses on reaching Middleburg were 
knocked up, and he experienced difficulty and delay 
in replacing them, but eventually reached Lydenburg 
on the morning of the 27th two days after the 

Additional It was not until the 25th November that the 

troops . . . 

asked for Administrator considered it necessary to represent, 
by telegraph, to Sir George Colley that, "Hostile 
attitude of the Boers has become more marked. 
Mass meeting takes place in January. I think it 
would be advisable that 58th should return to 
Transvaal." Sir George Colley replied the following 
day to the effect that he could ill spare the 58th 
Regiment, in view of an expected outbreak of Pondos 
on the Natal-Cape frontier, but was willing to 
send two companies to Newcastle, so as to relieve 
and render available the companies of the 94th Regi- 
ment there and at Wakkerstroom. On receipt of 
this answer, Sir Owen Lanyon reported further, by 
letter (six days' post), on the subject, and urged that 
more troops should be spared for service in the Trans- 

The move- vaal. As a result, later on, Sir George Colley de- 
ment l>i'L, f un . 

too late! tached four, instead of only two, companies of the 
58th Regiment to Newcastle, with the intention that 
they should relieve Wakkerstroom and Standerton, 
thus setting free those companies of the 94th Regi- 
ment for the Pretoria garrison. 1 The movement was, 
however, begun too late to gain this last object, and 
hostilities had broken out for some days before the 

1 See Blue-book (c. 2783), January 1881, No. 14 and enclosures. 


companies of the 58th and 94th Regiments were able CHAP. 
to reach Standerton. 

Orders were sent out, during the first week in 
December, by the military authorities in Pretoria to 
the out-stations and detachments on the march, desir- 
ing that, in the existing disturbed state of the country, 
every possible precaution should be exercised against 
surprise or attack, and for the safety of the cattle 
both by day and night when grazing or kraaled. 1 

But even to so late a period as the 5th December, 
Sir Owen Lanyon does not appear to have thought 

1 The following instructions, enjoining the utmost caution, were issued 
as early as the 24th November : 
" Officer Commanding, Pretoria. 

" 1. It behoves us at the present time, when armed Boers are known to 
be moving about the country in opposition to the law, to exercise great 
caution, and guard against any possible sudden attack. There must be 
no chance afforded to an adventurous and desperate leader, with one or 
two hundred followers, of being able to inflict damage by carrying off 
arms, ammunition, &c. 

" 2. No body of men, other than of her Majesty's troops, should be 
allowed to approach the camp by day or by night without a sufficient 
alarm having been given to enable the troops to stand to arms. 

" 3. Special precautions will be taken to secure the safety of all Royal 
Artillery and other guns, as well as all reserve arms, ammunition, &c. 
It may be expected that these guns, &c., will be the special object of 
attack, surprises, or sudden rush, should hostilities ensue. 

" 4. Steps will be taken to remove the imperial and colonial ammuni- 
tion and stores from the present outlying magazine to the central white 
building in the ordnance yard, the guard over the former being then 

" 5. The colonial guns will be placed in suitable position for the pro- 
tection of the town and camp, and parties of infantry will be told off for 
working them. 

" 6. Should the garrison become reduced by departure of a flying 
column, or an attack be expected, the unarmed natives could be utilised 
as scouts, to give notice of any bodies of men approaching or being in 
the vicinity. W. BELLAIRS, 

Colonel commanding Transvaal District. 

"PRETORIA, 24. 11. 80." 

58 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, the situation in any way critical. On that day, 
while reporting to the Secretary of State for the 
Colonies that the date for the assembly of the mass 
meeting had been advanced one month (to the 8th 
December), and with the full knowledge that none of 
the troops called up as mentioned in this and the 
preceding note could reach Pretoria in time, he 
writes, " I still do not think there is much cause for 
anxiety." l 

Indeed as the despatches given in the Blue-book 
show 2 the principal causes of anxiety at this period 
seem rather to have been, how best to reply to Mr 
C. K. White's criticism on " the existing form of 
government " 3 ; framing and carrying through a 
new law for the regulation of " the puny press of 
the Transvaal," as Mr White aptly termed it, con- 
sisting of only two struggling papers ; and the prose- 
cution of Mr Celliers, the editor and proprietor of 
the ' Volksstem ' 4 the only Dutch organ. 

As some of the later despatches sent from the 
Transvaal reached Downing Street only after it had 
become known, by telegraph, that the Boers had risen 
and invested all our garrisons, we cannot but think 
that they must have been found somewhat odd 

Mr Hudson was formally informed, the day fol- 
lowing his interview with the Boer Committee, that 

1 See Blue-book (c. 2783), February 1881, No. 12. 

2 See Blue-book (c. 2740), January 1881, No. 68, besides other 

:i See ante, p. 25. 4 'Voice of the People.' 


a general meeting of the people had been called for CHAP. 
the 8th December. 1 

Owing to the short notice given, Boers at a distance Number of 

Boers un- 

were unable to arrive so early at the place appointed 
Paarde Kraal a farm about thirty-five miles from 
Pretoria, towards Potchefstroom ; but, by the 13th, 
4000 men were said to have met a number probably 
increased a few days later. Altogether, by the 16th, 

1 Letter from Mr KRUGER. 

" KAALFONTEIN, November 29, 1880. 

" SIR, I beg to inform you herewith that I have submitted an 
account of our interview of this morning to the assembled people. 

" We have agreed upon holding a general meeting of the people on 
the 8th December next. 

" I hope and trust, as I informed you and as you agreed to, that the 
Government will place no obstacle in the way by summonses, writs of 
execution, or any military movements. 

" Should it happen, however, that movements are taken on your 
part, I must distinctly inform yoii I shall not be responsible for the 
consequences. I have, &c. S. J. P. KRUGER. 

" The Honourable G. HUDSON, 

Government Secretary." 

Mr HUDSON'S Answer to Mr KRUGER'S Letter. 

"POTCHEFSTROOM, November SO, 1880. 

" SIR, I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter 
of yesterday's date received by me at 1.25 P.M. to-day. 

" I clearly placed before the committee my contention that no 
Government worthy of the name would submit to be called upon to 
suspend the operation of the law. In the form in which you placed 
matters before me, you threw upon the Government the responsibility 
of what might arise from any precipitate action on its part. The 
Government is fully aware of, and prepared to accept, the responsibility 
of its course of action. 

'' Major Clarke has now been appointed Special Commissioner for the 
district of Potchefstroom, to whom further correspondence if necessary 
may be addressed. I have, &c. GEORGE HUDSOX, 

Colonial Secretary. 
"S, J. PAUL KRUGER, Esq., 

60 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, it was reported there were 7000 men under arms 

throughout the country. 

intended Early in December, Lieutenant Littledale, of the 
their meet- Eoyal Engineers, accompanied by Mr Melvill, the 
veyed. Surveyor-General of the province, had been sent to 
sketch the approaches to Paarde Kraal, and gain 
information which might prove useful in a military 
point of view. The locality was found well chosen 
for the purposes intended. Situated on a plateau 
of a range of hills, offering a large field of observa- 
tion, and at the foot of which the road from Pretoria 
to Potchefstroom passes, the position was naturally 
a strong one. The direct approaches from Pretoria 
were few, of a rocky precipitous nature, such as could 
easily have been defended by a determined foe ; while, 
had the position been turned from the Heidelberg 
side, many serious obstacles presented themselves to 
an attacking force. The opportunity to avail our- 
selves of the knowledge thus gained did not, however, 
Projected arise ; though, on the 17th, before the Boer Govern- 
brin'gabout ment's ultimatum had been received, and it became 

greater eon- -. -. i -11 

centration known that hostilities might be expected, with an 

of troops. . . 

immediate descent on Pretoria and attempt to capture 
the town, should its garrison be weakened, it had 
been proposed and arranged by Colonel Bellairs in 
the endeavour to improve the military position by 
eventual greater concentration for a field column 
to leave the following morning for Potchefstroom, for 
the purpose of bringing away the guns, mounted 
infantry, and one company of infantry of the latter's 
garrison the Administrator desiring that one com- 

O O 


pany should still be left. The column, thus strength- CHAP. 
ened, was, on its way back, to have been joined by 
another under Colonel Bellairs, as soon as the arrival 
of the Lydenburg detachment admitted of it, when, 
it was thought, should necessity require it, a com- 
bined attack could be adventured on the Boer posi- 
tion. With the advent, however, the same night, of 
Mr Hendrick Schoeman, bringing the Boer ultima- 
tum, this plan was and well it was so abandoned, 
and the order cancelled, as involving too much risk 
to the town. 

The telegraph wires were cut on the 15th, com- Telegraph 

wires cut. 

munication with Natal by that means then ceasing. 
Sappers sent from Pretoria to endeavour to repair 
the line, were unable to effect their object, being in- 
terfered with by the Boers, and the poles thrown 
down. 1 Probably the last telegrams sent from Pre- 
toria were those from Sir Owen Lanyon and Colonel 
Bellairs to Sir George Colley, giving the resolution 
passed at the mass meeting establishing the South 
African Republic, Colonel Bellairs referring to the 
positions of the detachments of the 94th Regiment, 
then on the march, and foreshadowing the probability 
of conflict commencing, by attack on the latter.' 2 

1 See Appendix C. 

- From Colonel Commanding, Pretoria, to the Deputy Adjutant- 
General, Pietermaritzburg, 14th December : 

" Boer meeting said to consist of four thousand, who have unfurled 
Republican flag, elected Kruger Vice-President, Joubert Commandant- 
General, and others as Commandants. Further intentions not known, 
but stated that first attack will be on Potchefstroom doubtful. 94th 
left Lydenburg 5th, but may not be here before 20th, roads being bad 
and rivers full. 94th from Newcastle and Wakkerstroom will be con- 

62 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. The hazardous nature of the military position 

deliberately chosen, and obstinately adhered to, not- 
Hazardous J J 

military withstanding the frequent protests and advice of the 


officer commanding the troops was now fully exem- 
plified, and seen to be bearing its natural conse- 
quences. By the act of the Boers assembling earlier 
than originally notified, the military pow r er for con- 
centration was reduced to a minimum more or less 
dependent on their abstention from attack of detach- 
ments on the march. No sufficient body of troops 
remained available for a strong field column, and, at 
the same time, to prevent the capital falling into the 
hands of the enemy. While threatening the seat of 
Government, from a camp only a day's ride distant, 
large bodies of armed mounted men could be rapidly 
detached, in any direction, to harass or overwhelm 
small numbers of troops, unaccompanied by cavalry, 
endeavouring to concentrate. All that the various 
military posts could do was to act on the defensive. 

The mass meeting, on the 13th December, pro- 
ceeded to elect Mr P. Kruo-er Vice-President, and 

O 7 

with Messrs M. W. Pretorius and P. J. Joubert to 
form a triumvirate, to carry on their Government. 
Mr P. J. Joubert became Commandant-General; Dr 
Jorisseu, State Attorney; and Mr E. Bok, State 
Secretary. The members present belonging to the 

centrated at Standerton about 21st, and then march for Pretoria. All 
have been warned to proceed cautiously, and guard cattle against 

" If any conflict takes place, will perhaps commence by attack o/i 94th.'' * 

* Cipher. 


former Volksraad resumed their sittings. A pro- CHAP. 
clamation was drawn up setting forth their griev- 
ances under British rule, and declaring their former 
independence now restored. This document was 
then sent to Potchefstroom to be printed, accom- 
panied by a body of about 800 armed men to pre- 
vent any interruption of the work. The proclama- 
tion was finally dated the 16th December. Its last virtual 


clause made known that, from that date, the whole of war by 

. r the Boers. 

country was " placed in a state of siege, and under 
the stipulations of the War Ordinance." 

The Boer patrols from the Paarde Kraal camp had Boer GOV- 


been met by our scouts within twenty-five miles of established 

J J . . at Heidel- 

Pretoria ; but on the 16th a large portion of their ^erg. 
forces had moved on Heidelberg, where their Govern- 
ment took possession of the public offices, and estab- 
lished themselves. The Republic was, the same day, 
formally proclaimed, and the flag hoisted amidst great 

In order "to prevent the concentration of a laro;e Boer troops 

1 sent to 

body of troops at Pretoria," 1 Commandant F. Joubert intercept 

J British de- 

was sent with a force in the direction of Middleburo- tachments 

' on the 

to intercept the detachment of the 94th Regiment march - 
on the march from Lydenburg, and then detained 
at the Oliphant river. Similarly, another force was 
despatched towards Standerton. " To prevent all 
bloodshed " as it is grimly put in a later proclama- 
tion of the triumvirate 2 circulars were given to the 
Boer Commandants in charge of these parties, ad- 

1 Blue-book (c. 2838), March 1881, Para. 23 to enclosure 13. 
- See Para. 5 of above proclamation. 

64 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, dressed to the officers in command of her Majesty's 
- troops wherever met with, desiring that any further 
advance should be arrested, or such movement would 
be taken as a declaration of war. The details con- 
nected with the surprise and destruction of the 
Lydenburg detachment are given in another chapter. 
That the other detachments did not share a similar 
disastrous fate, may be largely ascribed to the officers 
in command having, in the spirit of the instructions 
they had received, adopted proper precautions, and 
made forced marches to their destinations. When 
it became known that the mass meeting had been 
summoned a month earlier than originally intended, 
urgent messages were sent by telegraph or other 
means to officers commanding detachments on the 
march, desiring them to provide against surprise, 
and hasten their movements. The company of the 
94th Regiment, under Captain Campbell 58 non- 
commissioned officers and men, with 6 mounted 
infantrymen which left Marabastadt on the 30th 
November, used such expedition that it reached 
Pretoria on the 10th December, without molestation 
on the way. The mounted troop of the 94th Regi- 
ment, under Captain O'Grady and Lieutenant Garden, 
had arrived two days before. 

When replying to the telegraphic inquiry made 
raised iu by Sir Georo-e Colley " What local forces can you 

Pietoria. J J 

enrol, if necessary ? Loyal inhabitants must support 
Government in maintaining order," Sir Owen Lanyon 
remarks upon " the difficulty which the Government 


will experience in obtaining support from the loyal CHAP. 
inhabitants," and says, " little can be expected from 
them in this direction ; " and that, " owing to the cir- 
cumstances in which this province was annexed, and 
the fact that all the people are mixed up with and 
dependent on the Boers, in trade and other pursuits, 
it is impossible that the Government can rely upon 
them for that material assistance which might be 
expected in other places." 1 

Praiseworthy efforts were, however, made by some 
of the leading inhabitants to raise corps of volunteers, 
which formed the nuclei of what, later on, became 
known as the Pretoria Carbineers, Nourse's Horse, 
the Pretoria Eifles, and the Volunteer Artillery. 
From 150 to 200 men were thus enrolled, a portion 
of whom, under drill instructors furnished by the 
garrison, or some few of themselves who had already 
gone through their novitiate in arms might be seen 
each evening, during the fortnight preceding hostili- 
ties, intent on qualifying themselves to take their 
part in the coming tug of war. 

In a later despatch, Sir Owen Lanyon illustrates 
still further the impediments which stood in the way, 
at thi$ period, of forming a serviceable local force. 
After mentioning that only about one-third of those 
capable of bearing arms came forward to aid the 
Government, in case any attack should be made, he 
adds : " In some instances the young men of the town 
were prevented from following the dictates of their 
loyalty by their employers, who feared to lose some 

1 See Blue-book (c. 2740), January 1881. Enclosure 4 in No. 73. 


66 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, of their Boer customers, should it become known that 
their employes had joined the volunteers. Others 
held back from motives of false prudence, or from a 
dislike to be under military control, in which possibly 
their juniors in rank and position might be placed over 
them, on account of their being trained and more fit." 
The intention of Sir George Colley, in directing 
the Administrator to call upon all loyal inhabitants 
to support the Government, would appear to have 
been that such men should be employed solely in 
the defence of the town, and not for purposes of 
attack; for in his despatch of the 19th December, 
he is found writing thus to the Secretary of State 
for the Colonies : " I had previously asked the Ad- 
ministrator to call upon the loyal inhabitants of the 
Transvaal to support the Government, and a volun- 
teer force of 200 men has been raised for the defence 
of Pretoria. I propose, however, to employ this and 
similar forces as far as possible in the defence of these 
towns, &c., and to avoid, where practicable, bringing 
them directly in contact with the Boers. The 
feelings that would be aroused by such a civil 
war would be more bitter and enduring than any 
resulting from a direct conflict with Government." l 
With the further development of the situation, how- 
ever, this wise course was not found wholly practi- 
cable as the main patrolling duties around Pretoria 
had to be assigned to the mounted volunteers, and 
no attack on the enemy's positions could be under- 
taken without their co-operation. 

1 See Blue-book (e. 2783), February 1881, No. 37. 


With the object of giving the people around some CHAP. 
idea of the power in the hands of the military for 

1 A I T -, 1 

defensive purposes, experiments were publicly carried effect of 

out with dynamite and powder, under the direction experi- 


of Major Le Mesurier, R.E., on the camp ground ; 
and sundry explosions were effected after dark on the 
hills overlooking the town, to convey the impression 
that mines were in process of construction in various 
parts. Although the Landdrost had been requested 
to give notice to the townspeople, somehow many 
did not learn until too late what was about to take 
place, and in consequence one heard afterwards of 
ludicrous cases of dire alarm and consternation, show- 
ing that, in some instances, at all events, the moral 
effect had been reat ! 

At about eleven o'clock on the night of the Agent sent 
17th December, Mr Hendrik Schoeman presented 

ment with 

himself at Government House, accredited as the their ulti- 


" diplomatic agent " of the triumvirate, and bearing 
copies of the proclamation already issued by the 
latter at Heidelberg on the 16th, together with a 
letter to Sir Owen Lanyon, requesting that, as " in 
1877 our then Government gave up the keys of the 
public offices without bloodshed," so " we trust that 
your Excellency, as representative of the noble British 
nation, will not less nobly and in the same way place 
our Government in the position to assume the admin- 
istration. We expect your answer within twice 
twenty-four hours." 

A proclamation was thereupon issued on the 18th 

68 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, by the Administrator, declaring the province to be 
in a state of rebellion, and that in consequence, the 


tion issued officer commanding her Majesty's troops had been 

by the Ad- 

ministra- requested to put down insurrection wherever found 
to exist. Copies of this proclamation were on the 
19th given to Mr Schoeman, with merely a covering 
letter from the Colonial Secretary, acknowledging the 
receipt of the " communication " brought from Heid- 
elberg. Hostilities had, however, before this com- 
menced at Potchefstroom ; and Sir Owen Lanyon's 
answer was not even waited for, before despatching 
the force sent to intercept the detachment coming 
from Lydenburg. 

Defences of The vicinity of such a large body of armed 
of Pretoria, horsemen, together with the advent of Mr Schoemaii 
bringing the Boer ultimatum on the 17th December, 
caused increased activity in recruiting and drilling 
the volunteers ; many now joining, " as an example 
to others," who had never before handled a rifle, and 
were likely to be certainly at first more dangerous 
to friend than foe. Major Le Mesurier, Commanding 
Royal Engineer, was placed in command of the town 
district, and directed to organise its defence, with the 
help of the local artillery and foot volunteers, the 
central market - place being adapted for the main 
post, and certain buildings as block-houses to com- 
mand the entrances to the town. With the aid of 
the sappers, and parties of natives pressed into the 
service the townspeople generally preferring to 
look on and criticise this plan for defence soon 


assumed shape. Houses and walls were loopholed ; CHAP. 
doors and windows barricaded ; the Dutch church in 
the centre of the large market-square was enclosed 
within a parapet and ditch, forming an inner line 
of defence to the houses surrounding the square ; 
and w r aggons were drawn across the entrances as 

Cordons of sentries inner and outer lines were 
thrown out at night, when the challenging and de- 
manding the countersign became incessant. Through- 
out the nights of the 19th and 20th, the energy shown 
in this way was tremendous. It could scarcely have 
continued at such fever-heat. The " rounds " were 
on the move, visiting the citizen soldiers at all hours, 
seeing that each man was alert on his post and under- 
stood his duty. 

The first shots exchanged in the immediate neigh- The first 
bourhood of Pretoria were on the morning of the 
19th December, when Lieut. - Colonel Gildea, ac- 
companying a mounted patrol along the Potchef- 
stroom road, observed, about nine miles out, a Boer 
scout on a hill. Putting spurs to his horse, he and 
Mr Francis, a volunteer of the party, chased him for 
over a mile, when, Mr Francis having been left be- 
hind, Lieut. -Colonel Gildea captured man, horse, and 
rifle. Another scout, meanwhile, coming into sight, 
fired on the party, who thereupon returned the shot ; 
but then perceiving about forty Boers preparing to 
saddle-up at a farmhouse laager near by, the party 
deemed it prudent to fall back, the prisoner being 

70 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, taken with them." l The fact of a live rebel having 
been lodged in the jail seemed to give great satis- 
faction to the loyal party in the town, then busy 
holding meetings, clamouring for martial law, or 
joining in the defence of the place. 

Captain Intelligence was now received of the capture of 

Lambart r 

taken pris- Captain Lambart. of the 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers, 


and his being held as a prisoner at Heidelberg. This 
officer, accompanied by a Mr M'Hattie, had been 
sent in October from Pretoria to purchase horses in 
the Orange Free State, to complete the artillery and 
mounted infantry ; Mr M'Hattie to obtain horses 
similarly for Ferriera's Horse, then marching through 
the Free State to Basutoland. 2 Captain Lambart had 
reached to within a day's journey of Pretoria on his 
way back, bringing between forty and fifty horses with 
him, when the Boers took both him and his horses. 
No means of communication with Captain Lambart 
had offered, his whereabouts being latterly unknown. 

Report* Then came bad news from Potchefstroom a report 

Potchef- from Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe, dated 16th December, 


smuggled past the Boer patrols the last message 
received from thence in Pretoria. Hostilities had 
commenced on that date ; the enemy occupied the 
town, whilst the troops were restricted to the camp 

1 Colonel Bellairs, in liis observations made on the report of this inci- 
dent, says : "A spirited little outpost affair ; but Lieut.-Colonel Gildea 
must iutntst such minor expeditions to .subordinate officers, and refrain 
as far us possible from personally exposing himself on such occasions." 

2 See ante, p. 42. 


position, jail, and public buildings ; Captain Fulls, CHAP. 
of the Eoyal Scots Fusiliers, who, together with - 
Major Clarke Special Commissioner Captain Kaaf, 
and twenty volunteers, held the public buildings, had 
been killed, and several men wounded. This intelli- 
gence was supplemented, from Boer sources, by the 
further information that the public buildings had 
been taken, together with their defenders. 

But the morning of the 21st December brought still Jj^j of 
more gloomy news into Pretoria, spreading dismay and ^rst 
consternation through the town, and intensifying the disastei- - 
already growing ill-feeling against the Boers the 
intelligence that the headquarters detachment of the 
94th Regiment had been surprised the previous day, 
when on the march about 37 miles off, every officer 
and man having been killed, wounded, or taken 

It had been calculated that Lieut. -Colonel An- 
struther, having at length been able to cross the 
Oliphant, might reach Botha's Pass, a dangerous de- 
file, 16 to 20 miles from Pretoria, on the 21st; 
so, accordingly, Lieut. -Colonel Gildea had been in- 
structed by Colonel Bellairs to proceed in that 
direction at an early hour that day, with the double 
object of bringing in forage from a farmhouse nine 
miles away the same one mentioned hereafter as 
visited by Captain Burr on the 5th January and, 
with the mounted men, feeling for or giving assist- 
ance to the 94th detachment in the neighbourhood 
of Botha's Pass. For this purpose, a company of in- 
fantry, with a Krupp gun carried on a waggon, and 

72 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, all the available mounted men sixty moved off at 
two o'clock. The morning was dark ; they had pro- 
ceeded only about two miles out when two weary, 
footsore men, both slightly wounded, were discovered 
in the hands of the advanced scouts, thrown out for 
the protection of the town. These were Conductor 
Egerton of the Commissariat and Transport Depart- 
ment, and Sergeant Bradley of "the 94th Regiment, 
who, allowed by the Boers, had left the fatal ground 
of Bronkhorst Spruit soon after the conflict, and for 
eleven long hours had trudged through the dark 
night to Pretoria, there to tell the sad tale of disaster. 
They were at once mounted on horses, and by four 
o'clock Mr Egerton was making his report to Colonel 
Bellairs, and delivering an urgent message for surgical 
help. Arrangements were quickly made. A civil 
practitioner, Dr Harvey Crow, was engaged to go out 
and remain with such of the wounded as would not 
be able to be moved ; and this gentleman, in com- 
pany with Surgeon-Major Comerford who was to 
return some hospital orderlies, and two ambulances, 
were soon on the road to render the assistance asked 
for. The Rev. Father Meyer also accompanied the 



THE circumstances which led to and attended the CHAP. 
despatch of the order for calling in the greater 
portion of the Lydenburg detachment of the 94th burg<ie- eu ~ 
Regiment to Pretoria have been already alluded ordemTto 
to. 2 This means for concentrating more troops at 
Pretoria did not recommend itself as the best to the 
officer commanding the troops, and it was not his 
intention to have interfered with the Lydenburg gar- 
rison ; but such was that officer's anxiety to obtain 
additional troops for the formation of a field column, 
that he at once acquiesced in Sir Owen Lanyon's pro- 
posal, and promptly took steps to give effect to it. 

The orders reached Lieut. -Colonel Anstruther at Nature of 

_ _ instruc- 

10.30 A.M. on the 27th .November. Among other tions sent. 

1 Several more or less unreliable accounts, purporting to describe the Spruit afl'uir, have appeared at different times ; but we have 
not met with any so correctly, clearly, and intelligently written as that 
which was given some months later 1st June 1881 in the 'Natal 
Witness.' Full official reports will be found in Blue-book (c. 2866), 
pp. 130-149. 

2 See ante, pp. 53-56. 

74 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, things for his guidance, he was therein informed that 
his withdrawal from Lydenburg was to be considered 
as only a temporary measure ; that he should march 
without delay ; and that the senior commissariat offi- 
cer was by the same messenger sending instruc- 
tions regarding transport and other arrangements. 
Lydenburg The power of rapidly mobilising the outlying garri- 

deficient of . , . i i .1 

means for sons so necessary in the circumstances in which the 

mobilising. , 

troops were placed, in a country where transport is 
invariably a standing difficulty had, from motives 
of false economy, been withdrawn in September, not- 
withstanding that Colonel Bellairs had deprecated 
such action, and had urged the expediency of waiting 
at least a few months, until after the mass meeting 
then called for January had taken place. The 
Lydenburg garrison was thenceforward to be regard- 
ed as stationary, and a very small amount of trans- 
port, only adequate for local camp purposes, was 
allowed to remain. Now that the garrison was ur- 
gently required to march, the troops became wholly 
dependent upon the people they were supposed to 
hold in check for the transport required to enable 
them to move. 

Tenders for the supply of waggons for the march 
were called for, and the commissariat officer either 
went himself, or sent to the farmers in the neighbour- 
hood, to endeavour to obtain the number wanted. 
d}reat reluctance was exhibited to furnish them, and 
they were only eventually obtained at high rates of 
luring, and by guaranteeing their owners against loss 
through action of an enemv or swollen rivers, at 


high valuations waggons at 150, and oxen at 10 CHAP. 

In the written instruction relating to transport Excessive 
sent by the Assistant Commissary-General of Trans- of trans- 

port re- 

port at Pretoria to Deputy -Assistant Commissary- quired by 

1 J . J the coin- 

General Carter at Lydenburg it was intimated that mamiing 


on no account should more than a dozen w T aggons ac- 
company the troops, but that fewer should suffice. 
The officer commanding, however, demanded twenty- 
six ox-waggons, in addition to an ox- waggon, two mule- 
waggons, a water-cart, and an ox-ambulance already 
in possession. Mr Carter objected that this number 
was largely in excess of that allowed by regulation, 
and the instructions he had received. Lieut. -Colonel 
Anstruther, nevertheless, overruled the objection, or- 
dered Mr Carter to furnish that number of waggons, 
and said that he himself would take all responsibility. 
Two additional waggons were later on requisitioned 
for the conveyance of fuel, and even two more on the 
eve of departure, but could not be obtained. An ox- 
waggon was also hired for the regimental canteen. 

Finally, the detachment consisting of nine officers, The de- 
254 non-commissioned officers and men, three women, leaves Ly- 


and two children moved off on the morning of the 
5th December, taking with it a convoy of thirty ox- 
waggons, two mule-waggons, one water-cart, and one 
ox - ambulance, with probably about sixty native 
drivers and foreloopers. Eight days had been con- 
sumed in collecting the hired transport. It is reason- 
able to believe that, had it been only sought to meet 
the legitimate requirements of the detachment on the 

76 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, march, the day of departure might have been ad- 
vanced. Not only would delay have been saved 
in starting, but the progress made each day on the 
march would have been greater and safer. This will 
be clear to any one having acquaintance with the 
difficulties attending travelling with a long line of ox- 
waggons in such a country, at such a time of the year, 
when heavy rains render the roads almost impassable 
in places, and the rivers difficult or impossible to 
cross. Such a convoy thirty-three waggons must 
have stretched out at times to nearly a mile, and, 
while most difficult to protect, must have most 
materially retarded the march. Accordingly, we 
find that, although no difficulty was experienced in 
crossing the Crocodile river, Middleburg about half- 
way to Pretoria was not reached until the 14th 

h, (1 uiry Colonel Bellairs, reporting to Sir George Colley on 
headquar- the 25th November, calculated that, " provided satis- 
factory transport arrangements can be made on the 

J O 

spot," both the Marabastadt and Lydenburg detach- 
ments should be able to reach Pretoria about the 12th 
December. The former, with nearly as long a march, 
arrived before that date. The apparent delay in the 
latter's start, and the extraordinary amount of trans- 
port accompanying the troops, becoming known at 
Pretoria, caused much surprise to the military author- 
ities ; and Colonel Bellairs at once, in anticipation of 
their arrival, directed that all the circumstances should 
be inquired into, and the contents of the waggons 
inspected before unloading, by the Deputy- Assistant 


Adjutant - General and the Assistant Commissary- CHAP. 
General of Transport. 

The troops found the Boers along the road, with Details of 

C -IT T tlle march ' 

one exception, very friendly, and willing to dispose 
of any articles of produce. Some were on their way 
to the mass meeting assembling at Paarde Kraal ; 
but no importance seems to have been attached by 
the officer commanding to this known fact. No 
suspicion was entertained that the movements of the 
column were being followed and watched all the way, 
and that men were mixing with them who soon after- 
wards would be encountered rifle in hand fighting 
against them. One man, the landlord of a Lydenburg 
public -house, was recognised immediately after the 
fight carrying a rifle, and going about looting the 
dead. He had been in the camp the previous night 
drinking with the sergeants. 

A day's halt was made at Middleburg on the 15th, 
when fresh provisions were procured, and some re- 
pairs to damaged waggons executed. This delay did 
not make any ultimate difference, the Oliphant river 
in advance being reported impassable. This river 
was reached the following morning, but found still 
too swollen for crossing, and the march could not be 
resumed until the morning of the 18th, the drift 
having by then become fordable. 

On the 15th December some professedly neutral warning 

T- 11 f ~r i TT" i ~if possible 

Boers had come into r retoria irom r aarde Kraal ; and attack sent 
from what they let drop, and other sources of infor- toria. 

"78 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, mation, Colonel Bellairs was able to gather that two 
separate bodies, said to have consisted of 500 armed 
men each, had left, or were about to leave, the Boer 
camp for directions not then clear, though later in- 
formation indicated that the one party had gone in 
the Wakkerstroom direction, and the other towards 
Middleburg. Colonel Bellairs thereupon despatched 
a special mounted messenger one of the Transvaal 
mounted police, composed of Bastards to warn 
Lieut. -Colonel Anstruther of what had come to his 
knowledge. That officer was instructed that, al- 
though no hostilities had as yet taken place, caution 
should be exercised to guard against any sudden 
attack or surprise of cattle on the march. Being 
aware that the Lieutenant-Colonel had no sufficient 
mounted force with him only four mounted in- 
fantrymen for efficient scouting purposes, Colonel 
Bellairs desired him to " send forward natives (fore- 
loopers, &c.) to reconnoitre along the tops of and over 
the hills before advancing." The more dangerous 
portion of the road to be traversed the Botha Hill 
range, a defile about four miles long, entered twenty 
miles from Pretoria was also indicated, though, as 
it turned out, the Boers did not think it necessary 
to wait until the detachment had reached this part 
before delivering their attack. 1 

1 Tin- following was the text of tlie warning and instructions sent : 
' The Officer Commanding 94th Regiment. 

"."MX) armed Boers are said to have left the Boer camp, situated 40 
miles from this, on the road to Potchefstroom, yesterday, direction 

" Xo hostilities have taken place as yet, but caution should be ex- 


The letter was delivered to Lieut. - Colonel An- CHAP. 
struther at 6 A.M. on the 17th, while still waiting, on - 

. Warning 

the Middleburg side, to cross the Oliphant river ; received 

and ac- 

and at 10 A.M., the same messenger was sent back * n - 


with the Lieutenant-Colonel's acknowledgment of re- 
ceipt, and saying that the instructions laid down for 
his guidance would be carried out. 

A rooted belief was, however, entertained that 
the Boers meant nothing, and did not intend mis- 
chief. This preconceived view was carefully en- 

ercised to guard against any sudden attack or surprise of cattle on the 
march, especially at Botha Hill range or defile, between Pretoria and 
Honey's farm, about 20 miles from the former. 

" Send forward natives (foreloopers, &c.) to reconnoitre along the tops 
of and over the hills before advancing. 

" Send back a message by the bearer as to your whereabouts, and 
when you expect to arrive here. W. BELLAIRS, 

Colonel Commanding Transvaal District. 

"PRETORIA, 15th December 1880, 
9 P.M." 

The following order intended more particularly as an instruction to 
the officer about to be left in charge of the Lydenburg post was also 
received by Lieutenant-Colonel Anstruther some days previous to his 
leaving. See Blue-book (c. 2866), April 1881, p. 163. 

"From the Deputy- Assistant Adjutant-General, Pretoria, to the 
Officer Commanding, Lydenburg. 

" PRETORIA, 24</z. November 1880. 

' Owing to the present disturbed state of the Transvaal, you are 
instructed to neglect no precaution to guard against surprise or sudden 
attack, and with that end in view to take immediate measures to render 
your present position defensible. In connection therewith the Colonel 
Commandant has intimated, as his opinion, that the huts would be the 
most tenable and secure position you could adopt in the event of an 
attack. You will accordingly proceed without delay to put them in 
condition for such an emergency, by barricading and removal of obstruc- 
tions to your fire, as your judgment and experience may dictate. 

" By Order, 

Captain, Brigade Major." 

80 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, couraged by designing men met with, or who 
mixed with the troops, on the march. Lieut. -Colonel 
Anstruther and his officers remained deceived until 
the moment of attack, and were surprised in their 
resultant unpreparedness. On the very morning, 
when halting for breakfast near the farmhouse of the 
field-cornet of the district, the latter entered into 
conversation with the officers, and, no doubt, in order 
to remove any suspicions entertained respecting Boers 
who might be observed collecting, told them that a 
friendly meeting was going on close by ; also, that 
emissaries had gone through the country endeavour- 
ing to rouse the people to stop the march of the 
troops, but that the appeal had met with no response. 
Thus lulled into a sense of false security, the troops 
marched on to their fate. 

Onier of The Oliphaiit having become fordable, the waggons 
scribed/ were passed over on the 18th, and the march con- 
tinued. The morning of the 20th found the troops 
halting for their breakfast by the farmhouse of the 
field-cornet, who, as has been stated, succeeded in 
misleading Lieut. -Colonel Anstruther and his officers 
in regard to the peaceable intentions of the Boers 
around. Moving on, about noon, less than an hour's 
further advance brought them to the locality selected 
by the Boers for their attack. 

Slowly, at perhaps little more than two miles an 
hour, the convoy wound its interminable length along 
the road, the officer commanding, accompanied by 
two or three officers on horseback, leading the way ; 


the band, of some thirty performers, playing a quick CHAP. 
step, closely followed by a company about seventy 
strong ; the quarter-guard, thirteen strong, coming 
after ; with the provost-escort and prisoners, about 
twenty-three men, preceding the waggons, each of 
which was escorted by a couple of soldiers on either 
side ; then the rear-guard of twenty men, at an in- 
terval of seventy paces. 

The scouting; carried out for such a lengthy column insufficient 

fc scouting. 

was little more than nominal, and, as it turned out, 
totally inadequate. It was performed by the four 
mounted infantrymen only, one being supposed to 
examine the country from the rise in front of the 
column, and another from the highest hill in the 
vicinity. Even this small amount of scouting could 
not have been executed intelligently perhaps because 
no belief in the imminence of attack was entertained, 
and the .trouble was considered too great. 1 The 
natives attached to the transport-waggons were not 
utilised at all in this way, or to gain information as 
to the movements or intentions of the Boers. Even 
had they been so, it is of course possible that the 
troops might still have been defeated, outnumbered 
as they were by a determined foe ; but at least they 
would not have been surprised, would have .encoun- 
tered the enemy in better formation, and have inflicted 
heavy losses before surrendering. 

Other irregularities are known to have occurred other irreg 


1 One, however, of the mounted infantrymen would appear to have 
been riding alongside and conversing with a soldier in the ammunition- 
waggon. Blue-book (c. 2866), p. 56. 

82 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, on the march, showing the state of unprepared- 
ness which existed to cope against a sudden at- 
tack. Only thirty, in place of seventy, rounds of 
ammunition were carried by each man ; there was 
reason for believing that the lids of the reserve boxes 
of ammunition were not unscrewed or in readiness for 
sudden emergency ; the band, to the number of about 
thirty men, were leading the column, unarmed, and, 
when the enemy came down upon them, had hurriedly 
to seek rifles in a waggon to their rear ; some of the 
men alongside the waggons had disembarrassed them- 
selves of their rifles, and placed them on the waggons ; 
a sergeant, who had been attached to the officers' mess, 
was marching in plain clothes, unarmed. 

e- The duty of preventing the concentration of more 


to attack, troops at Pretoria, from the Lydenburg garrison, 
had been intrusted to Commandant Franz Joubert. 
He is believed to have left the Paarde Kraal camp 
for the purpose about the 15th December. Another 
body of 300 men is said to have been collected from 
the district to the north-east of Pretoria, and to have 
assembled, under Hans Botha the Commandant who 
was, on the 6th January, wounded and taken prisoner 
at Zwart Kopje at the latter's farm, sixteen miles 
from Pretoria. Other parties of Boers, coming up 
later from the Lydenburg and Middleburg districts, 
probably increased the force to nearly 1000 men. 
The original intention was to have attacked the 


troops after they had entered the Botha Hill defile ; 
but finding that they were detained by the high state 


of the Oliphant river and, no doubt, having noted CHAP. 
the unguarded manner in which their advance was 
conducted the Boers decided to move forward, and 
finally selected the locality by Bronkhorst Spruit as 
offering sufficient advantages for their object. The 
spot was well chosen, a piece of ground about one 
mile in diameter, sparsely wooded with small thorn- 
trees, and sloping down from either side to the road, 
which passed through the centre. Adjacent ravines 
and valleys, together with farmhouses and yards 
thickly surrounded by trees and gardens, offered 
ample cover to conceal a considerable force in the im- 
mediate neighbourhood. While one portion of the 
Boer force remained hidden on the spot, another is 
said to have watched and followed the troops all the 
way from the Oliphant. The disposition of the par- 
ties for the attack, at the moment when the troops 
should reach the spot selected, was all prearranged ; 
even the distances marked out by stones, to suit their 
rifles for point-blank range. 

At about one o'clock on the 20th December, the The fight. 
leading troops had reached the centre of the ground 
already spoken of, when the band abruptly stopped 
playing, owing to about 150 armed mounted Boers, 
in skirmishing formation, suddenly showing them- 
selves at only some hundred yards' distance on 
the rise to the left. Lieut. -Colonel Anstruther at 
once galloped back, and ordered the leading wag- 
gon to halt, and the remainder to close up. Then a 
Boer, with a flag of truce, advancing midway, the 

84 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Lieutenant-Colonel, leaving dismounted, walked to 

meet him, and received a closed letter, written in 
English. Beading this, he found that he was required, 
in the names of the triumvirate of the South African 
Republic, to remain stationary, or any forward move- 
ment would be taken as a declaration of war. 1 
Lieutenant-Colonel Anstruther informed the mes- 
senger verbally that he was unable to comply with 
such a request, his orders being to proceed with all 
possible despatch to Pretoria, but that he had no 
wish to meet the Commandant hostilely. The mes- 
senger said he would give the reply; and being asked 
by the Lieutenant-Colonel to let him know the result, 
he nodded assent. 


December 19, 1880. 
" To the Commander-in-Chief of her Majesty's troops, 

OH the road between Lydeiiburg and Pretoria. 

"Sin, \Ve have the honour to inform you that the Government 
of the South African Republic have taken up their residence at 

"That a Diplomatic Commissioner has been sent by them to his 
Kxcellency Sir W. Owen Lanyon. 

"That, until the arrival of his Excellency's answer, we do not know 
whether we are in a state of war or not. 

"That, consequently, we cannot allow any movement of troops from 
your side, and wish you to stop where you are. 

" \Yc, not being at war with her Majesty the Queen, nor with the 
people of England, who we are sure to be on our side if they were 
acquainted with the position, but only recovering the independence of 
our country, we do not wish to take to arms, and therefore inform you 
that any movement of troops from your side will be taken by us as 
a declaration of war, the responsibility whereof we put on your shoul- 
ders, as we know what we will have to do in self-defence. We are, sir, 
your obedient servants, 

" S. J. P. KRUOER, J' ice- President. 
" P. J. JOUBERT, Commandant- General. 
" W. KnwAUU BOK, Act.-Secretfj.rij to the Government." 


Meanwhile, during the time Lieut. -Colonel An- CHAP. 


struther had been engaged in reading the letter, 
the Boers had advanced to within three hundred 
yards of the road in that part, and other parties of 
Boers had come up in the rear and on the right flank. 
On leaving the messenger, Lieut. -Colonel An- 
struther ran back as fast as he could towards his men, 
ordering the leading company to skirmish ; but it 
was too late. Before the files could open out, the 
Boers had advanced, as previously arranged, to point- 
blank range of their rifles about one hundred and 
thirty paces distant from the troops no doubt having 
already marked the officers and sergeants; and thence, 
having previously dismounted, and left their horses 
behind them, delivered a murderous fire. The fire 
\vas returned ; but looking at the disadvantageous 
position in which the soldiers were placed, surprised 
and confused in the midst of executing a movement ; 
numbers of their officers and themselves shot down ; 
bandsmen eleven were killed running to the rear 
to arm themselves ; and having to fire uphill, it 
may be reasonably surmised that their fire was com- 
paratively feeble and ineffectual. The Boers fired, 
some lying, some sitting down, some from behind 
trees and stones ; the soldiers, after the first discharge, 
lying down on the grass along the roadside. At the 
head of the column the Boer fire at first seemed to 
be directed on the officers, the leading oxen, and the 
two first waggons, which contained arms and ammuni- 
tion, denoted by red flags, and from which the bands- 
men and prisoners were hastily arming themselves. 

86 THE TflANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

.CHAP. It was said afterwards that the band were playing for 
the last time on the march, it being the intention 
that they should join the ranks on reaching the next 
camping-ground. On the flanks and rear, volleys 
were fired at a few hundred yards' distance, and then 
the Boers, dashing up to the waggons, shot the leading 
oxen, and killed or wounded a large number of those 
in charge. The rear-guard all fell but three men. 
cessation When the unequal fight had thus raged for about 
tion. c ten minutes, Lieut. -Colonel Anstruther himself 
lying desperately wounded in the legs in five places 
seeing the uselessness of prolonging the conflict all 
the officers and three-fifths of the non-commissioned 
officers and men being already killed or wounded 
directed the " cease fire " to be sounded, and the men 
to hoist their white helmets, and wave white hand- 
kerchiefs in token of surrender. 

This done, the Boers closed in, ordered all arms to 
be laid down, and formed a cordon round the spot. 
Commandant Fran/ Joubert came forward and shook 
hands with Lieut. -Colonel Anstruther, expressing his 
regret at seeing him among the wounded. The mess- 
sei'o-eant afterwards oivino- the Lieutenant-Colonel a 

o o o 

glass of champagne to recruit his exhausted condition, 
asked the Commandant to take one likewise, which he 
did, saying " I drink to the health of the Queen of 
England ; and I hope the soldiers will leave the Trans- 
vaal, and let us have back our Dutch Republic." 
Soldiers and Boers also became very friendly. 

Leave was given for the retention of seven or eight 
of tin 1 waggons, containing- the officers' and mess 


baggage, provisions, and hospital equipment, the CHAP. 
water-cart, twenty tents for the wounded, and eigh- 
teen uninjured men to look after the latter. The 
remaining unwounded prisoners, with the rest of the 
waggons, and all but two oxen left for the water- 
cart, were removed to Heidelberg. The dead were 
stripped of boots, coats, &c., and the swords of the 
lieutenant-colonel and adjutant taken ; but immedi- 
ately the arms were laid down, the Boers became 
most obliging, and willing to do all they could for 
the greater comfort of the wounded milk, butter, 
eggs, bread, and fruit were brought in, and no pay- 
ment asked at first. 

At the close of the action the casualties were casualties. 
found to amount to 155 viz., 1 officer and 55 men 
killed ; and 7 officers including Conductor Egerton 
91 men, and 1 woman wounded. Some of the latter 
succumbed the same day, and many more later on, 
the death-roll eventually mounting to 77 officers and 
men. The injuries received were generally of an 
unusually severe type. 

Lieutenant and Adjutant Harrison was killed on 
the spot, having been shot through the head, along- 
side his colonel, while encouraging his men. Captain 
Nairne and Lieutenant M'Swiney died the same 
day, and Lieutenant-Colonel Anstruther and Deputy- 
Assistant Commissary-General Carter a few days after. 
Lieutenant Hume was severely wounded, but finally 
recovered. Surgeon Ward and Conductor Egerton 
were both slightly wounded. Captain and Paymaster 

88 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Elliot escaped, though only to be murdered some 
weeks later shot, when crossing the Vaal river in 
company with Captain Lambart of the Eoyal Scots 
Fusiliers by a Boer escort ordered to convey him 
over the frontier into the Orange Free State. 
Care of the It was well that Surgeon Ward had received only 
a flesh-wound of the thigh, insufficient to incapacitate 
him from caring for the wounded. Working unceas- 
ingly from the moment the combat was over, and 
through the night, it was not until six o'clock the 
following morning that he had seen the last man 
who required his attention. In his efforts to alleviate 
suffering he was heroically assisted by Mrs Marion 
Smith, widow of the bandmaster of the 94th Regi- 
ment, who was on her way to embark for England. 
Quitting the waggon in which she was riding with 
her two little children, this gentle young woman at 
once courageously went forward and helped the sur- 
geon to bandage the wounds, often with strips torn 
from her own clothing-. Mrs Fox, the wife of the 

o ' 

sergeant-major of the 94th Regiment also wounded 
-was dangerously wounded when in the same 
waggon with Mrs Smith, but afterwards recovered. 1 
Seeing the urgent necessity for additional surgical 
help, Conductor Egerton, although wounded in the 
hand, volunteered his services to go to Pretoria, and 
Sergeant Bradley, officers' mess-sergeant, to accom- 
pany him. Both being dressed as civilians, the Boer 
Commandant, not supposing them to be soldiers, the 
more readily gave them permission, with a safe-conduct 

1 See Appendix D. 


through the Boer lines. Horses were, however, CHAP. 

refused them. The messengers were soon on their 

way, and, as already related, after a long and painful 
tramp through the dark night, across rough tracks 
and boggy drifts, succeeded in carrying the melan- 
choly report of disaster, and appeal for medical 
assistance, into Pretoria before daylight the following 

In the absence of officers, the colours of the The colours 
94th Regiment had been carried by Orderly - room 
Sergeant Maistre and Sergeant Master - tailor Pears, 
who was slightly wounded. Seeing their danger from 
capture, these non-commissioned officers quietly hid 
them away under the bed of Mrs Fox, then lying 
dangerously wounded in the hospital waggon. After- 
wards the colours were torn off their poles, and, being 
secreted under the coats of two bandsmen, were taken 
into a tent pitched for the wounded, where Conductor 
Egerton, as soon as he had obtained leave to set out 
to Pretoria, secured them, and tying them round his 
waist, so safely carried them into Pretoria. 1 

It is impossible to reconcile the conflicting state- Boer losses. 
ments which have been made respecting the losses 
incurred by the enemy. The Boers themselves de- 
clared that there had been but two killed and five 
wounded. Conductor Egerton who, from his pre- 

1 For his gallant conduct 011 this occasion, Mr Egerton received a 
lieutenant's commission in the 94th Regiment ; and Sergeants Bradley, 
Maistre, and Pears received distinguished-service medals. 

90 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, vious experiences as an officer in the South American 
- States, may no doubt be relied upon for cool observa- 
tion did not think there were more ; and, as already 
hinted, the circumstances under which the column was 
surprised does not warrant the belief that our fire 
caused the enemy much loss ; yet two non-commis- 
sioned officers, who had gone to neighbouring farms 
for milk, &c,, asserted that they had seen twenty- 
seven coffins outside one house, and seventeen by 
another, lying near open graves, ready for interment. 
If these men were incorrect in their statements, one 
can only imagine that they must have been deceived 
by some extraordinary optical delusion. A native 
who had been forced to accompany part of the Boer 
force to Bronkhorst Spruit, and was present at the 
action, but had later on escaped into Pretoria, affirmed 
that the dead on the Boer side were removed in three 
waggons to a farm some distance off, where there was 
a women's laager, and that there were forty bodies. 

The arrival of Surgeon -Major Comerford, Dr 
Harvev Crow, and the Rev. Father Meyer, from Pre- 
tona, on the 22d December, with two ambulances 
and some hospital orderlies, gave much-needed assist- 
ance. Many capital operations were performed. The 
ambulance-oxen were utilised in removing the numer- 
ous dead animals about, and the camp was changed to 
a 1 etter site. Father Meyer returned soon after to 
Pretoria with an ambulance containing some of the 
slightly wounded men ; and Surgeon-Major Comer- 
ford, with some more similar cases, followed on the 


4th January, leaving Dr Harvey Crow to assist Sur- CHAP. 
geon Ward. The camp was not broken up until 
hostilities had ceased. 

Lieut. - Colonel Anstruther died on the 26th Death of 

Lieut. - 

December. Lying on the ground, shattered by the Colonel 

J * Anstruth- 

first volley from the Boers, he had yet continued er. 
calmly to the last to issue instructions to those around, 
and to think of others rather than himself. When 
the surgeon came to him first to dress his wounds, 
he expressed his wish that the men should be attended 
to before him. The high character he had always 
borne as a courageous and accomplished soldier, and 
his invariable courteous and genial manners, had 
gained him the respect of all, and rendered him 
universally popular. In his own regiment he was 
beloved by all ranks. 1 


The march of another detachment in another part circum- 
of the Transvaal, of nearly equal strength the 

greater portion belonging to the same regiment, 

O -L O O O 7 

carried out at the same period, in very similar cir- 
cumstances, with a large convoy of waggons affords 
an interesting parallel to that just related, though, 
happily, unaccompanied by like disastrous results. 

Two companies of the 94th Regiment, stationed at 
Wakkerstroom and Newcastle in Natal respectively, 
had been ordered, on being relieved by companies of 
the 58th Regiment from Natal, to concentrate at 
Standerton, and thence, with one company already 

1 See Appendix E. 

92 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, at the latter station, to march for Pretoria. Com- 
manding officers had been instructed by the military 
authorities in Pretoria that, in the existing disturbed 
state of the country, they should be very circumspect 
in adopting every possible precaution against surprise 
or attack. 

Details of Captain Froom, of the 94th Regiment, was in com- 
mand of the military post at Wakkerstroom. On the 
17th December, having been relieved the previous day 
by Captain Saunders with two companies of the 58th 
Regiment from Natal, he started with his company 
and a small convoy of waggons at daybreak the same 
transport being used that had brought in the baggage 
of the relieving company. Having arrived at Meek's 
Farm, where a halt was made for the night, he was 
joined by the two companies of the 58th and 94th 
Regiments from Natal, also on the march to Stan- 

Boer threat On the 18th. just prior to the three companies 

delivered. , , _ _ . 

2o2 orncers and men thus concentrated, resuming 
their march, Commandant J. Joubert, a relation of 
the Commandant -General, accompanied by Com- 
mandant Van der SchijfF, who had been placed by the 
Boers in charge of the district, and some unarmed 


Boers, rode up and handed to Captain Froom a docu- 
ment written in Dutch, signed by Mr Van der Schijff, 
prohibiting, in the name of the President of the South 
African Republic, any military from crossing the 
boundary line between Natal and the Transvaal. Mr 
J. Joubert, in presenting this paper, informed Cap- 
tain Froom, " If you proceed on the march, it will 


be a declaration of war." Being pressed for a reply, CHAP. 
Captain Froom said that he had none to give. 

Continuing his march, Captain Froom found a Large com- 


commissariat convoy three miles from Meek's waiting f^^ atal 
to accompany the troops, the conductor of which J ins - 
stated that his instructions, received in Natal, were 
to place the waggons in charge of the officer com- 
manding. There were now consequently over thirty 
waggons, commissariat and regimental, moving with 
the infantry detachment ; a charge, the onerous nature 
of which in times of disturbance only those who have 
had experience of transport-work in Natal and the 
Transvaal during the wet season can fully appreciate. 
A halt was made for the night at 5 P.M., two miles 
from Sand Spruit. The waggons were laagered, 
double sentries and look-outs placed. The road across 
the vley 1 here became exceedingly bad, it having 
been rendered worse through the road-parties em- 
ployed in laying out a track not having completed 
their work. 

On the 19th, the troops fell in before daybreak, Difficulties 

on the 

and the column left as soon as there was sufficient march. 
light to show that the country was clear. With 
difficulty the waggons were passed over Sand Spruit, 
then halting, and laagering for breakfast. Here a warning 

from Stan- 

messenger brought information from Standerton, from <ierton re- 

. ceived. 

a civil source, that the Boers intended to attack the 
party. The march was continued with the greatest 
caution, the waggons being kept closed up, so that 
they could be quickly laagered on the first appearance 

1 Swamp. 

94 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, of intended attack. When approaching a farmhouse, 

half a mile to the right of the road, the advanced- 

Armed guard reported that armed Boers were to be seen, and 

watching with the aid of glasses a number could be made out 

andfol- -i i i 

lowing the dismounted, and their horses standing close together. 


It was subsequently ascertained that there were 
nearly a hundred men. They, however, refrained 
from any hostile demonstration, and the column passed 
on. Half an hour afterwards, though, two Boers, 
believed to have been spies, and to have come from 
the farm, came up with the troops and asked to see 
the officer commanding. They then asked whether 
any sheep had been met with ; and on Captain Froom 
intimating that they probably wished to gain informa- 
tion as to his force, and the quicker they cleared off 
the better for them, they galloped away. Crossing 
the Wool- Wash, which was deep, the column reached 
Pa aide Kop, Franklyn's, about 6 P.M., after a very 
fatiguing day, and laagered for the night with the 
same precautions as before. Boers had been noticed 
(luring the day watching the movements of the troops, 
and making signals from the hills. 

On the 20th, the column again left at daybreak. 
The road was found very bad, and considerable delay 
ensued in crossing a spruit, two and three spans of 
oxen being necessary for each waggon. One waggon, 
having broken down, had to be abandoned. Boers 
A BOCI- were seen to be still following and hovering about. 
A halt was made at 10 A.M. for an hour for breakfast, 

i i i A T> -i 

near a large kraal. A 5oer messenger now arrived, 
bringing a despatch signed by Commandant-General 

O O -L Cj J 

arrives 8 ' 

from Com- 


Joubert to the same purport as the one handed CHAP. 

to Lieut.-Colonel Anstruther on his fatal march, the 

same day warning " the Commander-in-Chief of her 
Majesty's troops on the road to Pretoria" to stop 
where he was, and that any forward movement would 
be regarded as a declaration of war. The march was 
continued until 7 P.M., when, the Six Mile Spruit having 
been reached, dinners were cooked. The mules and 
oxen were much distressed ; but Captain Froom de- 
cided to push on, and endeavour to enter Standerton 
that night. He accordingly gave instructions for Night 

, . , . , . , march. 

everything to be in readiness to move forward again at 
midnight. A severe thunderstorm coming on an hour 
before caused some delay, and the roads were flooded 
and rendered very heavy. Soon after the column had 
moved off, a further message came from Standerton 
urging all possible haste, on account of information of 
an impending attack. The Vaal river was reached 
by 2.30 A.M., the 21st, and found to be fast rising 
and the drift difficult. In three hours, however, all 
the waggons had been safely passed over, and the safe amv- 
troops had entered Standerton, in time to defend ' 

the place. 

It was indeed well that Captain Froom accom- 
plished his forced march of thirty miles, from Paarde 
Kop into Standerton, within the twenty-four hours, 
as he did, and did not remain for the whole night 
halted at the Six Mile Spruit, as the Boers thought 
he would. Although, from the precautions adopted 
throughout the march, it is not likely that his column 
could have been surprised, yet there can be little 

96 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, doubt that, encumbered as he was with a large convoy, 
his prudence in stealing away at midnight prevented 
his being taken at a serious disadvantage when cross- 
ing the river, and probably suffering very severe loss. 

Commandant-General Joubert is said to have after- 
wards stated that, while a force was following in 
Captain Froom's track from Paarde Kop, another was 
actually crossing the Waterfall river, under the belief 
that it would be in time to join in the attack, which 
it was intended to make when the troops were at- 
tempting to cross the Vaal. It was also said that 
Commandant Van der Schijff was removed from his 
command for having allowed the troops to escape 

While great credit is justly due to Captain Froom l 
for having thus brought a hazardous march to a suc- 
cessful termination, and contributed to avert a dis- 
aster similar to that which overtook the Lydenburg 
column, all his officers and men seem to have well 
performed their parts, and the transport -waggons 
were ably handled by the conductor in charge, M. 
F. L. Cassells 2 of the Commissariat and Transport 
Staff, who afterwards distinguished himself at the 
siege of Standerton. 

1 Captain Fmom was highly commended by H.R.H. the Field-Mar- 
shal Commanding-in-Chief, for the manner in which the march was 

- Conductor Cassells was subsequently promoted to the rank of 




THE mountainous nature of the country about Pre- CHAP. 
toria affords a great contrast and pleasant relief from ' - 

, 1-111 11- i- Town and 

the monotonous open highveld undulating plains country 
passed over for a hundred miles when travelling 
thither from Standerton. Range after range of lofty 
hills, throwing out their spurs here and there, with 
narrow valleys between, form the characteristic of 
this district. Farmhouses, belonging almost wholly 
to the Boer class, surrounded by trees, with fruit- 
gardens and large cultivated patches, give evidence 
of greater fertility of soil and civilisation. Six miles 
from the capital the road winds between high hills, 
with thorn-trees and slight bush in places ; but it is 
not until it emerges through the South Poort a gap 
in the chain of hills immediately south that the 
town appears in sight, with pretty and pleasing effect, 
less than half a mile away, situated on a gentle down- 
ward slope, its houses nestling amongst trees, and in 
the midst of gardens crowded with fruit-trees, and 
surrounded by hedges of wild roses. Its. streets are 

98 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, regularly laid in rectangular style, but many plots 
are still vacant ; and its buildings of the usual South 
African ground-floor type are much scattered, except 
in the central part, and spread over a space of about 
a mile square. The market-place, frequented by the 
Boers with their waggons bringing in produce for 
sale, with the usual Dutch Eeformed Church standing 
in the middle, occupies the centre of the town ; while 
another market - place, at the eastern entrance, is 
allotted to the natives to outspan their waggons on. 
The public buildings are all of a rather primitive 
description. The Court-house, used also as the place 
for the Legislative Assembly to meet in, is on one 
side of the central market-place. Government House, 
a private residence rented, lies to the right, close to 
the road or street, with shady verandah looking on a 
pretty little garden. Close by is the English cathe- 

J. J O J O 

dral, a large red-brick structure of no pretension to 
architecture. Water-furrows run on either side of the 
streets, for purposes of house supply and garden irri- 
gation. There is a general aspect of dirt and un- 
tidiness everywhere. The streets are grass-grown, 
and altogether present rather the appearance of very 
badly kept village lanes than what their designation 
implies they should be. 

The town is placed between two parallel chains of 
lofty hills, running east to west about two miles 
apart, whose rocky debris are imperfectly covered 
with the turf. The ground slopes gradually from the 
southern range to the river Aapjes, an inconsiderable 
stream, generally fordable in many parts, which flows 


on its eastern side, and thence passes along the foot CHAP. 

of the northern range. 

The camp ground, as it was called, to the right and Military 

r & . & position. 

left of the Heidelberg road, as it emerges from the 
South Poort, was the military position, commanding 
to some extent the town and its approaches to the 
east and west ; but practically Pretoria was an open 
town, which depended almost wholly for its defence 
on the adequacy of the military field force available 
to oppose any attempted entry and occupation by an 
enemy. The military headquarter camp, at the time 
we write of, was 800 to 1000 yards to the left of the 
main road ; while Fort Royal, a redoubt thrown up 
in the early part of December, lay about 400 yards to 
the right. The jail and Loretto House commonly 
called the Convent occupied an intermediate position 
on the left of the road as it entered the town. 

The 21st December was an eventful day in Pretoria. Martial 

T> I* 1 T 1 f J 1 1 1 ' ^ aW l )r " 

-Beiore daylight at lour o clock in the morning it claimed. 
became known that the Lydenburg detachment of 
the 94th Regiment had been destroyed. It was at 
once recognised by the military authorities that they 
had a most determined foe more so than had been 
anticipated to deal with, and that the Boer leaders 
were displaying unexpected daring and ability for 
organisation. 1 The loss of between two and three 
hundred stanch soldiers who were to have marched 
in to reinforce the garrison that day very materially 
lessened the power to hold the extended lines, taken 

1 See Appendix F. 

100 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, up in order to include the town. The increased pres- 
tige accruing thereby to the Boer arms, and, inversely, 
the diminished moral influence exercised by British 
troops, could not but have a baneful effect with all 
disloyal and wavering inhabitants. Martial law was 
seen to be necessary. Only a firm hand, guided by 
a cool head, would now suffice to control and weld 
together, for the general defence and common good, 
the diverse materials of which the population was 

The towns- By seven o'clock after consultation between 
ordered Sir Owen Laiiyon, Colonel Bellairs, Lieut. -Colonel 

into the 

military Gildea, and Mai or Le Mesurier the proclamation of 


martial law was ordered, and the removal of the in- 
habitants from the town to the military position on 
the camp ground decided on. Only so could Pretoria, 
with several thousands of the enemy within strik- 
ing distance, be saved from liability to share a 
like fate to that which had befallen jPotchefstroom. 
It was not alone that it was desirable to avoid the 
possibility of street fighting, in a town filled with 
women and children, with the attendant probability 
of panics arising among the untrained defenders or 
that the defence itself was difficult, from the town 
being open and unprotected, except from the camp 
side, and its houses enclosed in gardens scattered over 
a considerable extent of ground ; but that, apart from 
the inexperience of townspeople to take care of them- 
selves under such trying circumstances, the people 
could not be wholly trusted. Many were known to 
sympathise with the outside party, and others to be 


closely connected by family or other ties with them. CHAP. 
The enaction of martial law, with the immediate and 
constant supervision of the civil population by means 
of concentration, was the only way of preventing 
such classes a minority favouring the rebellion, 
and perhaps rendering active assistance from within 
to the enemy. Only in that way could unity of ac- 
tion in the defence be obtained, and the provisions 
in the place be made to hold out. 

Sir Owen Lanyon, in a despatch dated 23d Janu- 
ary, thus speaks of the necessity which existed for 
concentrating the defence and evacuating the town : 
"Accordingly, martial law was proclaimed on the 
21st instant throughout the province. Prior to this, 
preparations had already been made for the defence 
of the town itself; but bearing in mind the increased 
numbers of the rebels and the increased confidence 
and strength resulting from the success of their attack 
upon the 94th, it was judged by the military authori- 
ties that a more concentrated form of defence was 
advisable. The town is very open and scattered, and 
it would have been impossible to guard it from any 
sudden raid with the limited numbers at the disposal 
of the military. It would also have been impossible 
to prevent communication \vith the enemy on the part 
of the disloyal citizens save by strict surveillance ; and 
further, there would have been great danger to the 
women and children in the event of a street fight." l 

The information that the town was to be vacated 

1 See Appendix G. 


102 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, soon spread. By nine o'clock an excited crowd of 
- armed volunteers and townspeople thronged the 

Opposition . 

of the market-square, the teelmg being strongly expressed 
people that the town ought to be held, and the determination 
was manifested that they would hold it even without 
the military. 

Colonel Bellairs was at the time making arrange- 
ments in camp for the influx of townspeople about to 
be moved in ; but word being brought to him of the 
ferment going on below, he rode down to the square 
with Sir Owen Lanyon and some others. By then 
the proclamation of martial law had been printed. 
A copy having been procured, the Administrator 
desired the Colonial Secretary to read it out publicly. 
This done, the populace were addressed by Colonel 
Bellairs. Assurance was given that all loyalists 
would be compensated for any losses they might 
.sustain through the action of the rebels a term the 
accuracy of which, as applied to the Boers, Mr Justice 
Kotze, standing by, took exception to ; and that the 
rebels themselves would hereafter be mulcted for the 
damage's. After all, it has been John Bull who paid ! 
As to the war, who could doubt the result? The news 
of the Bronkhorst Spruit disaster would raise such a 
feeling throughout England that 10,000 men would 
be despatched at once, and if that number did not 
suffice, another 10,000 would quickly follow, until 
the Transvaal was overrun from end to end, and the 
rebellion put down. The speaker, no doubt, fully 
believed in the result he foretold, and it is probable 
that his hearers did the same. It seemed so natural, 


and at that time impossible to believe otherwise ! CHAP. 
The necessity for drawing in the lines of defence and 
bringing the civilians into the camp was mentioned, 
and the people told that the military authorities 
would make every possible effort to provide for their 

Lieut. -Colonel Gildea and Major Le Mesurier were 
then asked by Colonel Bellairs to say a few words, 
and give further details of the situation and pro- 
posed arrangements. Both made spirited speeches, 
the former requiring all capable of bearing arms to 
come forward for their Queen and country, and in 
defence of their homes, giving the option to those 
who objected to do so to clear out of the town forth- 
with. The latter enlarged effectively upon the expedi- 
ency of the inhabitants withdrawing from the town, 
and the advantages attending a defence conducted 
within contracted lines, greater safety being so en- 
sured to the women and children. 

The people were gained over by the arguments set 
forth, and the appeals made to their patriotism. A 
few dissentient voices were promptly silenced ; and the 
crowd, giving cheers for the Queen, separated in an 
enthusiastic mood, shortly after practically displayed, 
many, with their families, being seen taking the road 
to the camp, struggling under the weight of bedding 
and various household goods they were carrying, 
under the impression that they were required to 
move at once. It was with some difficulty that they 
were stopped. The mayor had been informed that 
the exodus should not commence until the following 

104 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, day, by which it was hoped that some little prepara- 
tion might be effected for the accommodation of the 
families ; but, unfortunately, all had not heard of this 
arrangement in time. 

Effects of The effect of the declaration of martial law, 

declaring . 

martial coming m conjunction with the order to vacate the 


town, was quickly apparent. The numbers of the 
volunteer corps were at once nearly doubled. Men 
were being enrolled all day, those previously vacillat- 
ing, or perhaps oscillating, between the two parties, 
coming forward, joined, no doubt, by many with 
strong Boer proclivities, but who found the times 
now required them to cloak their feelings. Probably 
few left the town when invited to do so unless they 
would take up arms in the defence ; the uncertainty 
of the situation, and which side might ultimately 
prevail, most likely causing hesitation, and a dread 
of compromising themselves. Numbers, too, believed 
that they would not be called upon to take any 
active part outside, but merely behind the walls in 
the event of the place being attacked. Some there 
were, though, who still hung back from giving their 
services to the defence, and attempted to remain in 
the town. These were threatened with the terrors of 
the provost-marshal's interference. 1 


command- No sooner had the notification of martial law 
being in force gone forth, than the scene in camp and 
town became one of extreme bustle and activity in 

1 See Appendix H. 


every direction. In camp, the troops were seen CHAP. 
vacating their huts, pitching tents, erecting fresh 
shelter, and making various arrangements for the 
reception of the civilian families. Commissariat sup- 
plies were being collected ; arms and equipment dis- 
tributed to the newly enrolled men, and horses brought 
in for the mounted corps, now increased in strength. 
At the convent provisions were being stored, the 
walls loopholed, and the place adapted for defence. 
Preparations were also going on at the jail for en- 
camping families in the yard, while the space between 
the two latter buildings was being turned into a 
camping-ground for the Pretoria Rifles, now doubled 
in number. The town and roads from the camps, 
hot and dusty to suffocation, were crowded with 
every available ox and mule waggon, whose native 
driver and forelooper had become even more excitable 
and noisy than usual. Fatigue-parties were engaged 
everywhere, loading up the commandeered supplies 
and articles deemed necessary for the defence ; while 
staff, commissariat, and ordnance-store officers were 
riding about at speed, whenever the crowded thor- 
oughfares admitted of it, issuing instructions all 

Calculating that the state of siege might continue for calculated 
three months, Colonel Bellairs had authorised the heads 8 t ate of . , 

.siege might 

of the several military departments to seize horses, ^st three 

J ' months. 

cattle, provisions, war-material, and any required arti- 
cles forthcoming in the town, receipts being given for 
future payment in all cases. Assistant Commissary- 
General Le Mesurier was directed to be prepared ac- 

106 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, cordingly with supplies in camp, to feed both military 
and civilians for at least that period, and to lay in as 
much forage and mealies as were procurable. Deputy- 
Assistant Commissary-General Markwick had orders 
to collect all arms, ammunition, powder, dynamite, 
&c. Major Le Mesurier, E.E., to take such material 
as might be found necessary for defensive purposes, 
or the accommodation of the troops and towns- 
people. 1 

For three days the work of removing the various 
stores into camp went on. These seizures for the 
public benefit were carried out as equitably as pos- 
sible ; and later, when every one had settled down, 
valuation boards, composed of civil officials and gen- 
tlemen acquainted with marketable prices, as exist- 
ing prior to hostilities, were assembled to assess the 
amount of compensation which was due on each claim. 
In this way the interests of the public were duly pro- 
tected, and the claims of individuals fairly satisfied. 

Messenger Xio'llt COlllillO' Oil - the 21st - the Services of Mr 

, o o 

sent to T1 -! i i n i 

Natal. Leathern, a civilian, were obtained to carry despatches 
to Sir George Colley. Having received his orders, he 
was passed through the lines, accompanied by Mr 
Henwood, a civil conductor attached to the transport 
branch, both being well mounted, and with spare 
horses, the fleetest combined with bottom to be found 
in the place, specially selected and impressed for the 
occasion by the Assistant Commissary - General of 
Transport. By making a circuitous detour eastward, 

1 See Appendix I. 


they very cleverly managed to elude and distance all CHAP. 
Boer patrols, and reach Newcastle on the 24th, when 
Mr Leathern despatched a telegram he had been in- 
trusted with, the remaining papers being taken on to 
Pietermaritzburg. 1 Mr Leathern thus fully justified 
the confidence which had been placed in him, and his 
ability to perform a difficult and dangerous task. 

The following day the 22d the day from The town 
which the people afterwards reckoned the commence- 
ment of the siege, as it was commonly called, the 
townspeople vacated their more or less comfortable 
homes to take up their abode in the confined spaces 
set apart for them ; the members of the Pretoria Car- 
bineers and Nourse's Horse remained near their horses, 
which were picketed on the north-west side of the camp; 
the Pretoria Eifles encamped on the space between the 
jail and the convent, part of the grounds of the latter ; 
the small Transvaal Artillery Corps, with about forty 
families, were placed within the precincts of the jail ; 
families, separated by blankets, &c., hung up, filled 
the soldiers' huts ; other families, who had covered 
waggons, tents, or other means for erecting shelter 
of their own, and preferred that mode of living, were 
allowed to form a separate laager to the west of the 
camp, known as the Civil Laager while a few accom- 
modated themselves similarly in the spaces between 
the huts. By sundown all had obtained covering of 
some sort, though, in many cases, sadly inadequate 
as a sufficient protection from the frequent storms of 

1 See Appendix F. 

108 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, an almost tropical character which came on at this 
season. As time went on, the inferior accommoda- 
tion was improved, and some partially built huts were 
completed to lessen the crowding. 

All day long streams of men, women, and children 
continued to flow along the hot dusty roads, back- 
wards and forwards, carrying articles of bedding, 
furniture, cooking utensils, clothing, &c., to their new 
homes. The scene could not be without its pitiful 
aspects. The women, of course, suffered most ; some, 
who soon expected to become mothers, might be seen 
sitting by the wayside, worn out, and weeping ; 
others dragging themselves despondingly along, with 
wailing infants in their arms, or frightened children 
clinging to their skirts. Such a sudden transition 
to new and unlooked-for experiences could not but 
have been a sore trial to most, and there were doubt- 
less many heavy hearts in camp that night. It was 
at times a scene of apparently hopeless confusion, 
and only the marked energy and forethought of those 
who had the directing and controlling of the move- 
ment could have eventually evolved order from such 
complexity, aided as they were by the marked patience 
and even cheerful submission of all classes, from the 
wealthiest to the poorest, to the necessities imposed 
upon them. 

civilian ap- The first step taken towards reducing the civil 

pointments . . 

in camp, community to some kind of order was through the 
appointment of Deputy- Assistant Commissary-General 
Heygate as camp quartermaster, with sundry civilians 


to act under him in various capacities of supervision. CHAP. 
The headquarter civilian cantonment was divided into 
four wards. Mr J. C. Preller the first mayor, just 
elected, but who never formally took oifice was made 
chief wardmaster, with the following gentlemen as 
wardmasters : Mr Justice Kotze, Messrs Browne, 
Meintjes, M'Kenzie, and Verdoorn ; and others 
Messrs Dely, Hill, Rous, Swart, Van Leenhoff, Van 
Renen, and Zeederberg, as assistants. At the Civil 
Laager, Mr Fox acted as quartermaster, assisted by 
Messrs James, Clarke, Byerly, Redpath, and Hollard. 
For the Jail Laager Dr Rutherford, the Land- 
drost, as quartermaster, with Mr Nixon as assistant. 
The following were appointed sanitary officers : 
Rev. J. Weavind, Chief- Justice De Wet, arid Messrs 
Beckett, Calderwood, Keet, and Hawkins. Other 
gentlemen were attached to the departmental branches 
of the service, in such capacities as were likely to 
render them useful. 

The volunteer corps, owing to the pressure in- volunteer 
duced by the establishment of martial law, had been 
considerably strengthened as regards numbers. Horses 
had been pressed into the service of the mounted 
bodies, and the whole armed with rifles of various 
patterns, found in the Government ordnance store, 
and which, together with an old mitrailleuse, four 
small 4-pounder Krupp guns, and a 3 -pounder Whit- 
worth, also in the same store, had formerly belonged 
to the South African Republican Government. 

rrn T /-<! t TV T TT i Mounted 

I he rretona Carbineers and JNourses Horse the corps. 

110 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, former consisting of about one hundred and the latter 

of sixty horses, reduced as time went on, and the 

ravages of war and disease had had their effect were 
most useful corps. They took the lead in all the 
attacks, and by their efficient daily scouting and 
patrolling for miles around, afforded security to the 
town, and gained grazing space for the cattle. Their 
casualties were more numerous and serious in conse- 
quence, in proportion to numbers, than other bodies 
about 15 per cent. Three commanders of the 
Carbineers D'Arcy, Anderson, and Sanctuary were 
successively placed hors de combat. Captain Nourse 
raised the corps bearing his name ; but falling sick 
early in the investment, he was succeeded in the 
command by Captain Sampson, who was wounded at 
the attack on Zwart Kopje. 

rtiiim-. The Transvaal Artillery about a score of men, 
under the command of Lieutenant F. Stiemens, first 
clerk to the Colonial Secretary worked a gun placed 
in the south-east bastion of the Jail Laager, and 
occasionally did service with the cattle-guards, &c. 

The Pretoria numbered about 400 men. The 
additional material was not very promising ; but by 
dint of a few weeks' incessant drill, sharp discipline, 
and rifle practice under its energetic commander, 
Major Le Mesurier, assisted by his adjutant, Lieu- 
tenant Cloete, a barrister-at-law, and the company 
officers the corps soon presented a respectable appear- 
ance, and took its share of hard work. The defence 
of the Convent Redoubt and Jail Laager was con- 
fided to it and the Transvaal Artillery. This must 


have proved a most anxious charge to its commander. CHAP. 

.... in. 

who had to deal with men of varied nationalities, 

prejudices, and opinions many, probably, little to 
be trusted. The ceaseless vigilance of Major Le 
Mesurier in overlooking the working of the pickets 
and sentries, thickly thrown out in this direction at 
night he rarely, it was said, resting for more than a 
couple of hours at a time precluded any disaffected 
men being able to compass mischief. To his tact and 
judgment in managing a body composed of such 
strange elements may be ascribed the avoidance of 
serious outbreak. That the danger existed, a district 
order, issued on the 29th January, on the " serious 
insubordination " of one company which led to all 
its officers being reduced seems to show. 1 Another 

1 District Orders by Colonel W. Bellairs, C.B., Commanding Trans- 
vaal District : 

" PRETORIA, 29th Jan. 1881. 

" Serious insubordination having occurred recently in a company of 
a volunteer corps, when many men refused to perform a duty for which 
they had been detailed, presumably because they believed they had a 
grievance, and were worked harder than they should be, it seems 
necessary to point out that no man is justified, no matter how legitimate 
his grievance may be, in refusing to perform duty he lias been detailed 
for or to carry out an order given to him. 

" The following extracts from the Queen's Regulations, section 5, 
para. 36, and the Army Discipline Act, section 43, show the mode of 
complaint sanctioned : 

" ' The manner in which officers or soldiers should proceed to obtain 
redress for any grievance under which they may conceive themselves to 
be suffering, is prescribed in the Army Discipline Act ; but if they 
shoiild desire to bring their grievances to the notice of an inspecting 
general officer, they are to be afforded an opportunity of doing so.' 

" ' If any soldier thinks himself wronged in any matter by any officer 
other than his captain, or by any soldier, he may complain thereof to 
his captain ; and if he thinks himself wronged by his captain, either in 
respect of his complaint not being redressed or in respect of any other 
matter, he may complain thereof to the general or other officer com- 

112 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, company raised a remonstrance against being detailed 
for exterior duty, but was promptly silenced, and 
informed that, though called volunteers, they were, 
under martial law, to do the bidding of the command- 
ing officer, and go wherever they were required. Only 
one man a brother of the Boer general commanding 
outside deserted towards the close of hostilities, 
civil Finally, there was the Civil Guard, a nondescript 

body of from forty to fifty men not adapted, from 
various causes, for swelling the ranks of the volunteer 
corps. They continued throughout in a chronic state 
of grievance, and it was found difficult to get them to 
undertake even the protection of their own laager, by 
throwing out a few sentries at night on the west 
front, joining others on the right and left. They 

manding the district or station where the soldier is serving ; and every 
officer to whom a complaint is made in pursuance of this section shall 
cause such complaint to be inquired into, and shall, if on inquiry he is 
satisfied of the justice of the complaint so made, take such steps as may 
be necessary for giving full redress to the complainant in respect of the 
matter complained of.' 

"The colonel commanding will always be ready to inquire into a 
complaint coming through the proper channel and fairly stated, and to 
give such redress when possible as the case may call for; but at the 
same time he desires to caution all that those bringing forward false 
accusations or statements will be punished, as provided for by the 
27th section of the Army Discipline Act, viz. : 

" ' Every person subject to military law who commits any of the 
following offences; that is to say: 

'"(1.) Being an officer or soldier, makes a false accusation against 
any other officer or soldier, knowing such accusation to be false; or 

" ' (2.) Being an officer or soldier, in making a complaint where he 
thinks himself wronged, knowingly makes any false statement affecting 
the character of an officer or soldier, or knowingly and wilfully sup- 
presses any material facts, 

"' Shall on conviction by court-martial be liable to suffer imprison- 
ment, or such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned.' " 


regarded their position as too exposed, and clamoured CHAP. 
for a special blockhouse to be built. 

Native scouts, both mounted and on foot, were Native 

. . scouts. 

most usefully employed, especially at night, as parties 
of observation to give notice of any movement threat- 
ened by the enemy, being placed out at long distances 
at the drifts, passes, and approaches all round. 

Five shillings a-day was fixed as the rate of pay for Pay of the 

O / J. / T , 

,-, . .,,.. . 1-1 volunteers. 

each volunteer private, in addition to rations, which 
latter, however, were given free to all civilians, 
women and children included. Those employed as 
artisans in skilled labour saddlers, blacksmiths, car- 
penters, bricklayers, &c. received some further small 

In order to prevent any chance of the enemy mn-forts 
occupying the hill -range to the south, which com- ed. 
manded the camp at rifle distance, two covered forts 
of rough stone, for twenty-five men and a 4-pounder 
Krupp gun each, were placed thereon, one, called 
Fort Tully, to the east of the Poort, to command the 
approaches from that side, together with the stream 
which furnished the town and camp water-supply ; 
and the other, Fort Commeline, to the west side, 
similarly to command the approaches from that 
quarter. They were provisioned for three weeks, and 
garrisoned by the Eoyal Scots Fusiliers. There being 
a good look-out for many miles though hills inter- 
vened here and there to the south and in other 
directions, these positions were also utilised as signal- 
stations, in communication day and night by helio- 


114 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, graphs, flags, and flashing lamps, with the camp 
below. The surroundings of the forts were well pro- 
tected by abatis, wire entanglements, &c. ; while 
hand-grenades, and blue-lights mounted on poles with 
reflectors improvised for the occasion, were kept in 
readiness to discover the near approach of and give 
an enemy a warm reception. As, from the inequalities 
of the ground, these forts could not sufficiently com- 
mand the Poort, a blockhouse was built on the eastern 
side of it, for a night picket of twelve Fusiliers, 
and stakes with wire entanglement, removed by day, 
were placed across the road. 

Fort Royal. Fort Royal occupied by a company of the 94th 
Regiment, with a 4-pounder Krupp gun below Fort 
Tully, and between it and the town, was about 1000 
yards east of the Headquarter Camp, and commanded 
the South Poort and east side of the town and camp 

The Jaii The jail was strengthened by the completion of a 
high wall surrounding the interior buildings, and with 
a bastion for a 4-pounder Krupp gun at its south-east 
corner. When all the available space within its walls 
came to be crowded with the families of the civil 
population, this defensive position became known as 
the Jail or Tronk Laager. Mr Steele, Finance and 
Revenue Commissioner, was appointed assistant-com- 
mandant, and supervised the arrangements of the 
laager and prison, until he fell seriously ill about the 
middle of February. 

convent The Convent Redoubt, about 700 yards from the 

p i i j * ,/ 

north-east corner of the Headquarter Camp, was gar- 


risoned by the Pretoria Rifles and Transvaal Artillery, CHAP. 
under Major Le Mesurier as Commandant. It may be - 
said to have included Loretto House and the jail, 
with the intervening space, used as a camp, enclosed 
to the east and west by defensive walls joining on 
to the two buildings. 

The Headquarter Camp, forming an inner line of 

defence, was below and to the north of Fort Comme- 
line, overlooking the west side of the town and the 
Daas Poort in the north range of hill, through which 
the road to Kustenburg passed. The camp included 
without much eye originally to defence various com- 
missariat and ordnance-store buildings, soldiers' huts 
and married quarters, officers' and sergeants' messes, 
canteens, stables, &c., the walls of stone, brick, or cor- 
rugated iron, and roofs generally thatched. These were 
grouped, as far as possible, to form several squares, 
with defensive walls and shelter-sheds behind them, 
for the defenders the whole garrison to take up 
their nightly allotted posts in. 

Looking north was a salient angle with parapet 
and ditch in the former of which were placed some 
old guns for ornament enclosing the provost prison 
building, in one of the cells of which was placed 
several hundred pounds weight of dynamite, and a 
large quantity of gold-dust belonging to one of the 
banks. Some thirty to forty prisoners were retained 
here principally old offenders, deserters, and others 
sentenced at an earlier period to long terms of im- 
prisonment. A portion of the provost enclosure was 
filled with hospital-tents. In the adjoining enclosure, 

116 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, to the east, was placed the remaining portion of the 
hospital establishment in huts, marquees, and tents ; 
the commissariat supplies and bakery ; the ordnance 
stores ; and the Eoyal Engineer department. Here, 
also, on a raised mound, was placed a small signal- 
gun, fired daily at noon, to give the time ; and adjoin- 
ing it the flag-staff, with the Union-jack flying. On 
the evacuation of Pretoria this staff was taken down 
and re-erected for several weeks in front of Brigadier- 
General Bellairs's office at Standerton ; and when the 
troops finally withdrew from the Transvaal, it was 
put up again at Fort Amiel in Natal. 

In the central or garrison square were pitched the 
tents of the officers of the Eoyal Scots Fusiliers ; 
while their commanding officer, Lieutenant -Colonel 
Gildea, together with Mrs Gildea, who bore up so 
bravely, and ever showed a cheerful countenance 
throughout the long period of suspense, trouble, and 
discomfort, 1 lived in the orderly room at the north 
side, the garrison office-work being conducted outside 
under a shed. Lieut.-Colonel Gildea, as next senior 
officer to the colonel on the staff, Colonel Bellairs, 
commanding the Transvaal District, was Commandant 
of the garrison of Pretoria, having been appointed, with 
the sanction of Sir George Colley, some months before 
hostilities an arrangement which it was not consid- 
ered necessary subsequently to disturb. Sir Owen Lan- 
yon and Colonel Bellairs shared between them, with 
their offices, a portion of a hut on the east side of this 
square, the other portion being used as a hospital ward. 

1 This ladv afterwards received the Eoval Eed C.'ros.s. 


To the south were more huts, full of families, CHAP. 
and the officers' mess-house, and beyond this, the 
transport laagers. On the west side, more families, 
the tents for the troops, soldiers' married quarters, 
stables, and the lines of the Royal Artillery and 
mounted corps, with some slight defences, walls or 
trenches, in places, and wire fencing lower down. 
The Civil Laager was placed to the south-west on CMI Laa- 
a slope, and, some hundred yards west of that, a 
small Hottentot camp. An abandoned magazine 
building, surrounded by a ditch and parapet, on a 
hill 1200 yards to the west, was utilised for a mount- 
ed picket, and, together with a blockhouse in the 
valley to the north-west, protected that side of the 
position and a large cattle-kraal midway between. 

The " School Plaats " natives remained at the mis- Natives. 
sion station, on the northern side of the town ; other 
natives with their masters or mistresses in camp, or 
in charge of their houses in town ; and the rest em- 
ployed with the transport laagers. 

The forced withdrawal of the inhabitants from Boerposi- 
the town to the military camps, and being there sub- 
jected to martial law, had the effect of paralysing any 
intentions entertained by the disaffected within of 
giving active assistance to those without whenever an 
attack should be determined on. The Boers, there is 
reason to believe, were completely taken by surprise 
at this unexpected development, and changed their 
plans. 1 Instead of attacking the place, when several 

1 See Appendix K. 

118 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, thousands were close by available for the purpose as 
- no doubt was their original intention with fair pros- 
pect of the town falling into their hands, they were 
now constrained to invest it by a series of laagers, 
placed in natural strong positions, at such distances 
that it might be expected, if the laagers did not 
altogether escape attack, they would be within sup- 
porting distance, and, by concentrating their respective 
forces, be able to force back and attack in turn any 
column venturing out so far. 

The situations of the several laagers formed in the 
neighbourhood of Pretoria are referred to in a despatch 
given in the Appendix. 1 The various roads leading 
from the town were thus guarded, and constant com- 
munication by means of patrols kept up all round, 
signal-fires being lighted when necessary to indicate 
the locality where reinforcements were wanted. A 
network of observation of this description was placed 
round each military post, and over the whole of the 
Transvaal, from Zeerust and the borders of Griqua- 
land west to Lydenburg, and from Marabastadt to 

Soldiers' As soon as hostilities were seen to be inevitable, 
andbeita the white helmets and belts of the troops were coloured 
with the reddish-brown clay found in the neighbour- 
hood, so as to render them less conspicuous as marks 
to the enemy. This was a great improvement in 
appearance as well, making the men look more fitted 
for their vocation. It is odd that notwithstanding all 

1 See Appendix L. 


the experiences gained by successive South African CHAP. 
campaigns, showing the absurdity of a white head- 
dress for outpost-work, especially by night, white hel- 
mets should still have been issued for service. 

The services of the bandsmen of the Eoyal Scots 
Fusiliers were further utilised in working a 7 -pounder 
gun, in the handling of which they became very expert. 

On the morning of the 28th December, a Skirmish 

. on 28th 

mounted patrol of 50 men having been sent, under December. 
Lieutenant O'Grady of the 94th Kegiment, to recon- 
noitre the country from the east to the south side, met 
with the enemy in force, and had a brisk skirmish 
near the Six Mile Spruit, on the Heidelberg road. An 
advanced party of the volunteers, under Mr Sampson, 
becoming aware of the vicinity of a large body, esti- 
mated at from 300 to 400 men, quickly retired, but 
were pursued by 50 Boers, supported by 100 more. 
When about 500 yards from the spruit, the Boers 
dismounted and fired with effect, wounding two men 
and some horses. The party then halted, returned 
the fire, and, taking their wounded with them, con- 
tinued to retire on their support, which had taken up 
a strong position on a rocky hill offering good cover, 
their flank being at the time threatened by another 
party of Boers. From thence their fire checked the 
further advance of the Boers, and caused them event- 
ually to fall back. One of the two wounded on this 
occasion was Mr Norman, first clerk to the Secretary 
for Native Affairs, his thigh being fractured. This 
gentleman ultimately recovered, but remains lame for 

120 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. life. Some Boer horses were reported as being; seen 
led back without riders. 

The following morning Lieut. -Colonel Gildea, tak- 

sance and . . - 

skirmish mg with him the two mountain-guns, 130 mounted 

on 29th . 

December, men, and 200 miantry, proceeded to reconnoitre the 
same ground where Lieutenant O'Grady's party had 
been engaged the previous day. Leaving a company 
with signallers, to keep up communication between 
the forts and the front, the main body crossed the 
Six Mile Spruit, and occupied a ridge about 3300 
yards beyond, from which a few shells had previously 
dislodged some Boers. The latter had thereupon re- 
treated on the Eed House Laager,' about 4400 yards 
off, where the enemy appeared to be in force. Some 
shells were then sent in the direction of the laager and 
cattle-kraal ; but, finding the practice of the guns 
at that distance ineffective, Lieut. -Colonel Gildea 
moved forward 400 yards, hoping to improve his 
position in this respect. He, however, found he could 
only do so by moving further from his base than, 
with the force he then had with him, he would have 
been justified in doing, and as detachments having 
been left to hold the spruit and the ridge behind 
the escort remaining with the guns was insufficient. 
Lieut. -Colonel Gildea, in his report, says : " I did 
not consider it advisable to advance further than I 
did, with the force at my disposal, taking also into 
consideration the position we now occupy, and the 
large number of the enemy in the field, and the very 
few soldiers we have to fall back on." 


Meanwhile some commotion had been created by CHAP. 
the shells pitched about the cattle-kraal, and the 
Boers were seen to be busy removing their oxen from 
danger. The desire to secure cattle booty seems in- 
evitable to colonists, and has in all South African 
wars too often led to evil results from want of cau- 
tion. This was the case now. The wish was ex- 
pressed that an attempt should be made to capture 
the cattle. 1 Lieut. -Colonel Gildea acquiesced so far 
as to give the Pretoria Carbineers permission to 
scout forward for the purpose, though they were not 
to expect him to move to their support. Captain 
D'Arcy's troop, which was on the right, then moved 
rapidly towards the farmstead, when a volley from 
the enemy, under cover of loopholed walls to the 
rear of the house, brought several men and horses 
down. The troop fell back a little, but engaged the 
enemy for some minutes, until a reinforcement, under 
Captain Sanctuary, coming up from the left, the 
enemy were kept in check, and the wounded taken 
to the rear. Fortunately the Boer fire, after the first 
volley, was indifferent. 

Captain D'Arcy was dangerously wounded in the 
foot. Although able to get about on crutches some 
months afterwards, bone continued to exfoliate from 
the wound. Three troopers were also severely wound- 
ed. One of them, Mr L. Melvill, a mere lad, son of 
the Surveyor- General, specially distinguished himself 

1 According to Mr Du-Val, who was present, the suggestion to capture 
the cattle emanated from Mr Brooks, one of the Legislative Council, 
who, from his previous knowledge of the country as a surveyor, was 
allowed to accompany Lieut. -Colonel Gildea. 

122 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, by his coolness in remaining in action to the last, 
in . 

although wounded and his horse shot under him, in 

order to assist, by his fire on the enemy, in covering 
the men carrying Captain D'Arcy to the rear. Three 
of the enemy were reported as known to have been 

These casualties, occurring; to volunteers, caused 

7 O * 

some sensation among the civil inhabitants, and were 
the occasion of the local paper remarking that " The 
lives of ' Our Boys ' are far too valuable to be risked 
in attacking a miserable farm-laager, from behind 
which the enemy take their pot-shots at our men." 
Colonel Bellairs also regretted " that the too great 
eagerness and want of proper caution on the part of the 
Carbineers, should have led to some casualties which 
might otherwise have been avoided, and to the tem- 
porary loss of the services of such a good officer as 
Captain D'Arcy, and brave man as Trooper L. Melvill." 

Camp Many were the Camp Orders and Eegulations 

promulgated with the object of bringing the het- 
erogeneous mass of people, thus suddenly collected 
together, into order and discipline, and enforced with 
fair success. 

It was notified that all persons .should, weather 
permitting, be out of their huts or tents from 6.30 
to 9.30 A.M., the interiors, in the interval, being 
swept, cleaned, and made tidy ; and the bedding 
placed outside to air. No person was allowed to leave 
the camps except by named places for exit, and then 
only with a pass, signed by the Garrison Adjutant. 


Such passes were signed and given out during dif- CHAP. 
ferent stated hours daily ; and, before presentation, 
had to be countersigned by the Camp Quarter- 
master, to show that the applicant was not required 
for any duty. After 6.30 P.M. no person was per- 
mitted to enter the lines without giving the counter- 
sign. If the countersign was obtained and used 
unauthorisedly, or given in a loud voice, enabling 
others in the vicinity to hear it, the person so offend- 
ing was to be arrested. There was sometimes a roll- 
call among the civilians, to ascertain that all had 
returned to camp before sunset. In case of repeated 
absence, remaining in town, the ration would perhaps 
be ordered to be stopped. No family was allowed a pass 
for more than one native to remain in town to look 
after premises ; and natives found without passes were 
impressed for Government services. Certificates for 
exemption from duty had to be signed by a military 
medical officer. Goats, fowls, &c., had to be kept 
outside the camp lines. Permits had to be obtained to 
keep milch cows. Special places were set apart for 
washing purposes, and arrangements made for men's 
bathing. All fires had to be extinguished by 8 P.M., 
and lights by 9 P.M. though, in February, for the 
greater convenience of families, the time was made 
one hour later. At 9 P.M. the camp entrances were 
barricaded, and the countersign demanded of all pass- 
ing from one camp inclosure or square to another. 

Special attention was at all times given to efficient 
scavengering ; and, later on, two brick furnaces were 1 
built for burning; refuse. 





The satisfactory condition of the camps, and the 
good order prevailing throughout, elicited the follow- 
ing complimentary order : 

" PRETORIA, 2d January 1881. 

" Colonel Bellairs desires to compliment Lieut.-Colonel 
Gildea, commanding this garrison, and the various head 
officers, civilian and military, upon the order, regularity, and 
cleanliness now reigning in the camps and positions of 

" It was no ordinary task to remove a population of some 
thousands from the town to the camp ; and many circum- 
stances such as frequent heavy storms of hail and rain, 
with want of sufficient shelter, and the urgent military neces- 
sity for all available labour to be employed in strengthening 
the defences contributed to the difficulty and hardship. The 
removal could not have been so easily and quickly accom- 
plished but for the calmness, acquiescence, and readiness 
shown by the townspeople themselves. A few may have made 
difficulties and raised complaints ; but the large majority 
men, women, and children submitted without a murmur to 
the stern necessity forced upon them, and worked with a 
will, not alone in improving the scant accommodation afforded 
to themselves, but in extending and guarding the defences. 

"Colonel Bellairs cannot but express his admiration of the 
conduct of the inhabitants of Pretoria in thus so cheerfully 
adapting themselves to their strangely altered situation, and 
at their submission to military rules, which cannot but be 
felt as irksome and even oppressive by those unaccustomed 
to stringent regulations, the necessity for which may not 
always be understood. 

" Eleven days have elapsed since this exodus was effected, 
but owing to the attention given to sanitary arrangements, 
the general health is excellent, and at no time have the troops 
been so free from fever." 

As a means of ensuring better health amongst 


the civil community, and at the same time giving CHAP. 
greater security to property left in the town, arrange- 

J J ... Camp oni- 

ments were made as soon as commissariat require- mbnses. 
ments with regard to stores had been completed for 
running covered mule or ox waggons, with seats 
inside, between the camp and town, for the con- 
venience of women desirous of visiting their houses 
for a few hours, and, later on, enabling the children 
to attend their several schools, which then reopened. 
The intense heat occasionally experienced, alternating 
with heavy thunderstorms often rendering the 
roads impassable for women and children caused 
this way of locomotion, and temporary escape from 
camp discomforts, to be looked upon as a great boon. 

Such of the shops or stores as still held any goods shops in 

J the town 

would occasionally reopen. A volunteer would find reopen. 
time, in the intervals of his military duties, to rush 
down to the town to carry on his sales. It would be 
bruited about among the ladies, as quite an important 
piece of news, that Mr - would be at his shop 
that day. The scene thereupon would be very 
amusing a crowd of women of all grades waiting at 
the place for the door to be opened : the owner arrives 
dressed in civilian's clothes, but carrying his rifle, 
ammunition, and accoutrements. " Now you must 
make haste, ladies, for I'm for guard at five o'clock." 
Then followed the strangest shopping ; every one 
helping herself to what she wanted, measuring it off 
by aid of arm and nose the yard being, in this case, 
quite irrespective of varying length of limb and the 
shopman taking their money with the most implicit 

126 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, reliance on their good faith. Then another citizen- 

soldier would exclaim as he opened his shop " Now, 

ladies, don't ask me for soap, sugar, tea, rice, or flour, 
for these are all necessaries, and have been requisi- 
tioned by the authorities, so that your begging for 
them only wastes time." It was not long, though, 
before the acute sex discovered that sugar-candy and 
other sweets were not military necessaries, and that 
such articles might be made to sweeten their tea 
and coffee. One lady left quite pleased with her 
bargain, because she had secured the scrapings of a 
sugar-barrel at one shilling and sixpence the pound, 
the scraping probably having been done by herself. 

Dutch The mention of schools and children recalls an 

teaching, incident that occurred, only about a week before the 
commencement of hostilities, at the Dutch Seminary, 
the largest school in Pretoria, and at which many 
English children were taught. The public examina- 
tions were being held, with distribution of prizes, 
preparatory to the pupils breaking up for the Christ- 
mas holidays. Boys and girls exhibited their talents 
in various branches of learning and accomplishments 
some by reciting poetry before the audience, con- 
sisting of the Administrator, Government officials, and 
the parents of the children. Among them was a 
sturdy boy, who performed his part with zest and 
amid much applause. The piece selected for him 
curiously enough, considering the presence of the 
Administrator, and that the school received a Govern- 
ment grant was an ode to liberty, having reference 


to the "Martyrs of Slagter's Nek," the victims of CHAP. 
an incipient revolt against our rule during our early 
possession of the Cape originated, oddly enough, 
also through the action of a Bezuidenhout and who, 
ever since, have been remembered by the Boers in 
the light of their national heroes. 

What with interior omards and exterior pickets Onerous 


mounted and foot all around by night ; patrols, 
cattle-guards, and wood-cutting parties by day ; fre- 
quent strong reconnaissances, occasional foraging 
expeditions, and now and then attacks on the enemy's 
distant laagers ; the garrison men and horses had 
more than enough work, more than commonly falls to 
the lot of troops in an ordinary campaign. This, too, 
often in great heat by day, following perhaps a night's 
watch through storm and rain. 

The main object sought was to keep the enemy at The enemy 
such a distance that the cattle and transport animals distance. 
over 3000 should be secure from molestation, and 
have ample grazing-ground ; and that no alarm or 
annoyance should be occasioned to the civil inhabi- 
tants, as would necessarily be the case were the enemy 
able to approach the town with impunity. This object 
was fully attained. 

The enemy, in consequence, being only able to 
watch Pretoria from a long distance off, by laagers 
established in strong positions on an extended line of 
circumference, from six to twelve miles from the 
town, were obliged to keep a larger force detached 
for the purpose from their main body than otherwise 

128 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, might have been necessary at no period less than 900 
men, though many more at times. 

Foraging There were many successful foraging expedi- 
tions, tions, under various officers, to the outlying farms, 
from three to nine miles distant. Considerable addi- 
tional supplies of sheep, forage, mealies, potatoes, &c., 
were thus laid in. Captain Sampson, on New Year's 
Eve, was able to secure five horses, about 500 sheep, 
and a quantity of poultry ; Captain Burr, on the 5th 
January, returned with two horses, nine mules, and 
eleven wao-g-on-loads of forage, and two of mealies : 

OO O 7 ' 

Major Le Mesurier, on the 26th January, brought 
in over 2000 bundles of forage, together with some 
mules ; and other officers were similarly fortunate. 
These forays had to be conducted with much care 
and caution, to prevent surprise, or being success- 
fully harassed on the return journey. Intermediate 
parties were left to hold good positions along the 
roads traversed, with signallers to keep up communi- 
cation from front to rear, and convey information 
to the officer commanding the forces in Pretoria. 
An ambulance -waggon would accompany, together 
with sufficient mule-waggons to convey the infantry 
rapidly to the locality the weather being generally 
hot and oppressive and to return filled with sup- 
plies. Sometimes a mountain-gun would be carried 
on a cart or waggon, which, on arrival at the destina- 
tion, would be hauled up some commanding hill, with 
boulders oifering cover to its infantry escort, and on 
which the working-parties could retire if driven in by 


superior force. Mounted patrols would be sent out CHAP. 
long distances to give timely warning, or to hold 
passes in the vicinity through which the enemy might 
be expected to arrive. Vedettes, dotted about here 
and there, and men busy digging up potatoes, plucking 
mealies, gathering fruit, or loading the waggons with 
forage, formed altogether a pretty picture, occasionally 
enlivened by the approach of parties of Boers and 
shots exchanged with their scouts. 

It was during Captain Burr's expedition in this Captain 

n i i -n -i i Burr>s ex ' 

way to IStrubens Jbarm, nine miles due east, on the pedition. 
5th January that one of his patrols discovered the 
waggon-laager at Zwart Kopje, about three miles fur- 
ther east ; and consequent on his report, arrangements 
were immediately made to attack that position the 
following morning. Captain Burr on this occasion 
was about seven hours absent from camp. He had 
no sooner started on his return journey than his rear- 
guard reported 60 Boers as following, who shortly 
after were joined by 90 more. The dispositions 
made by that officer were, however, so judicious, that 
the enemy did not see their opportunity to attack. 

The Zwart Kopje is a rocky knoll rising to about Attack of 

IJ J to 6thJanu- 

30 feet, formed of large boulders, with brushwood ary. 
growing between, 12 miles from Pretoria, on the 
Middleburg side of the Pinaar river, which flows 
and makes a bend round its base, the road drift 
about 200 yards on one side, and Cockroft's farm- 
house, surrounded by trees and bushes, the same 
distance on the other. The laager consisted of seven 


130 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, waggons, drawn up behind, with a defending force of 
- about 40 men ; but reinforcements were available from 

other laagers within easy distance. 

strength of With a view to attacking this position and de- 
force, stroying the waggon -laager, Lieut. -Colonel Gildea 
was sent out at two o'clock on the morning of the 
6th January with a force composed of one field-gun, 
140 mounted men, and 280 infantry. Fifteen mule- 
waggons carried the latter, and it was intended that 
they should return filled with forage from a farm 
passed by ; but this idea had afterwards to be aban- 
doned, the day's work having proved longer and 
more fatiguing than anticipated. Following the 
same road as that traversed the previous day by 
Captain Burr, Struben's Farm was reached between 
five and six o'clock, shortly after sunrise, after a 
troublesome march in the dark, and some delay in 
passing the small column over soft places and boggy 

signalling- Forty of eighty men taken of the Pretoria Rifles 
taehed. were left on the way to hold a hill three miles from 
the camp, from which it was hoped that signals 
could be passed into the garrison. Partly owing to 
defective manipulation, and partly to the heat-refrac- 
tion later in the day, the heliograph messages could 
l)e only imperfectly made out. When it became 
known that the column was returning by a different 
way, and a final message came seeming to imply that 
the hill was surrounded by Boers, fears were enter- 
tained for the safety of the party, and Colonel 
Bellairs despatched the few mounted troops in camp 


to render assistance. They, however, met the party CHAP. 
returning, the Boers in their neighbourhood having 

Captain Sanctuary with the Pretoria Carbineers Disposition 

. of Pretoria 

65 men proceeding by another road, occupied some carbineers. 
low kopjes to the right rear of the one about to be 
attacked, with the object of cutting off the enemy's 
retreat in that direction ; while Captain Sampson, 
with Nourse's Horse 25 men went on in advance 
of the main body to the rising ground in front of 
Struben's Farm, overlooking the Zwart Kopje, two 
miles below. 

The enemy had apparently received notice of Pretoria 

J IL J . Carbineers 

the approach of the Carbineers, as, before Captain engaged. 
Sanctuary had time to take cover, a party of Boers 
were seen coming from the direction of the laager. 
Captain Sanctuary thereupon opened fire. His first 
discharge proved ineffective ; but a second is said to 
have emptied four saddles and wounded three horses. 
The enemy then extended in a most orderly manner, 
some getting cover in a dry sluit, others behind 
stones. They were followed by another small party, 
issuing from the same direction, who rode down the 
valley and took up a position behind undulating 
ground in an easterly line. During this part of the 
engagement about six o'clock one trooper was 
killed and two wounded ; four horses were lost owing 
to the man holding them being shot. At about 
7.15 A.M. a party of 50 Boers were seen to be 
approaching from the north Gray's Farm and 
another party of the same number from the direction 

132 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, of Middleburg. Captain Sanctuary was preparing, 
in obedience to an order which reached him about 
8 A.M., to concentrate his corps and take part in the 
attack on the Zwart Kopje, when, finding that a hill 
from which he had withdrawn a detachment of his men 
had immediately been occupied, and believing that 
a similar result would ensue from the evacuation of 
the position then held by himself, which prevented 
the enemy outflanking the attacking party, he felt it 
incumbent on him to remain where he was. 
Disposition Meanwhile the main body had not halted at 

of the main _ , 

body. btrubens rarm more than ten minutes, when 
Lieut. -Colonel Gildea, hearing that the Carbineers 
were engaged, at once pushed on, throwing out the 
mounted infantry to protect the flanks and rear. On 
drawing near the Zwart Kopje a few shells were 
exploded over the position, though without apparent 
effect, the Boers keeping well under cover. Captain 
Dunn, with 50 men of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, 
was detached to hold a hill to the right. The re- 
mainder of the Fusiliers about 100 under Lieu- 
tenant Staimell, was then sent forward in skirmishing 
order to attack along the front; Lieutenant Littledale, 
with 10 of the Royal Engineers; Captain Sampson, 
with some dismounted men of Nourse's Horse ; and 
Captain Palmer, with 30 of the Pretoria Rifles, opera- 
ting in similar manner to the ri;ht, alono* the front 

CJ O ? O 

of the farmhouse. 
.\huseof After some twenty minutes' firing, and when the 

the white . J 

na<j. skirmishers were about 800 yards off the enemy's 
position, a white flag was raised on the kopje. 


Lieut. -Colonel Gildea thereupon caused the " cease CHAP. 
fire " to be sounded, when the Fusiliers stood up 
from their cover, but the Volunteers on the right still 
continued a desultory fire from the bushes they had 
worked into. Lieut. -Colonel Gildea, taking with 
him his orderly Lance-Corporal Burns, who spoke 
Dutch rode down to the river, white flags being 
shown. Many of the Boers now evacuated the kopje, 
riding away by threes and fours. These Lieut. - 
Colonel Gildea endeavoured to stop by despatching 
three scouts " to tell them they must not go while 
their flag of truce was flying." The men were, how- 
ever, fired upon. The orderly, in the meantime, having 
crossed the drift, and to within hailing distance, 
called out to some Boers in his front to come down 
to the river, as the officer in command was there 
waiting for them. The only response was a volley 
at himself, and two shots, followed by others, at the 
Lieutenant-Colonel. Fire being reopened by the 
Fusiliers, they advanced to within 300 yards of the 
position, and then held the bank of the river. 
Lieut. -Colonel Gildea, having reinforced the Royal 
Engineers and Volunteers on the right with a few 
men of the Fusiliers, directed the whole to turn the 
left of the kopje. This having been well effected by 
Lieutenant Littledale, and the others with him, the 
bugle sounded the " charge " to the Fusilier line. 
Owing to the precipitous nature of the banks of the 
river in places, Lieutenant Stanuell was compelled to 
send the right half of the company in charge of 
Colour-Sergeant Hardwick, while he himself took the 

134 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, left half. When within 100 yards of the kopje, he 
'- found only four men alongside him apparently owing 
to the difficulties encountered, and two of his party 
having been killed and several wounded. He there- 
fore took advantage of some cover, and continued 
firing. Then for a minute a white flag was raised on 
the kopje, but no sooner did Lieutenant Stanuell 
show himself than he was fired at. Finally, the 
Boers seeing themselves being surrounded, and having 
no horses to escape on, again hoisted and kept up the 
white flag. The "cease firing" was sounded, and 
soon after, upon being called to come down, they 
gave themselves up. The attack, from the firing of 
the first shell, had lasted an hour. 

Prisoners Seventeen prisoners were taken one of whom, 
mortally wounded, died before he could be removed, 
and another on the road. Of the remaining fifteen, 
the commandant Hans Botha was dangerously 
wounded by shell and rifle-balls in four or five places. 
He remained for weeks in a precarious condition in 
the camp hospital; but before the end of the invest- 
ment was cured, and able to return to his home to 
testify to the care and skill of the English surgeons, 
who had brought him out of the very "jaws of 
death," aided not a little by a marvellous constitu- 
tion of his own. 

Two of the Boer waggons with their oxen were 
utilised to carry away the prisoners and the arms and 
ammunition found. The rifles were principally of 
the Westley-Richards pattern. Two cartridge-bags 
of the 94th Regiment taken in all probability at 


Bronkhorst Spruit were discovered, one on a mor- CHAP. 

tally wounded Boer. The remaining five waggons 

were blown up and destroyed. 

The wounded having been attended to and placed Return of 

. the column. 

in the ambulances, the column started about nine 
o'clock on its return journey, which was not accom- 
plished without difficulty and delay, the ox-waggons 
and ambulances travelling very slowly ; and another 
Boer reinforcement estimated at 150 men which 
arrived at this period from the direction of the Red 
House Laager cutting the line of communication 
with Pretoria rendering great caution necessary. 

The Carbineers, who, before rejoining the column, 
received' some shots from the Boers arriving- from the 

i O 

eastward, now again came into action, while protecting 
the left flank and skirmishing with the enemy, who 
were firing from rocky ground near Struben's Farm. 
One man was mortally wounded. 

The object of the enemy was now seen to be to 
occupy the rocky ridges flanking the road, and the 
passes through which the column had originally 
advanced. Batches of Boers appeared galloping for 
the different positions, from which they would be 
able to harass the retiring line of troops and waggons 
with fatal effect. Fortunately, by making a detour 
to the right across the veld, and returning to camp 
by another road, which did not offer the same facilities 
for attack, Lieut. -Colonel Gildea was able to frustrate 
their intention. In this way moving the waggons 
three abreast when possible, and showing a front to 
the enemy where bad drifts occurred the column 

136 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, escaped further serious molestation, though much 
fatigued, having been thirteen hours under arms 
with exposure to a hot sun. 
British During the engagement, six men three Fusiliers 


and three Carbineers were either killed or mortally 
wounded, and thirteen others wounded, only two of 
which were slight cases. The improper use made of 
the white flag, 1 probably arising from a difference of 
opinion as to yielding, may have caused more casu- 
alties than otherwise would have resulted ; but it was 
during the final charge, when less than twenty of the 
enemy were left, that most occurred. 

Captain Sampson was seriously wounded in the 
neck and shoulder whilst gallantly leading on his men. 
He was carried out of action and across the river, 
under heavy fire, by Lance-Corporal Hampton, who 
had just before been conspicuous for the way in which 
he headed his small party of Fusiliers detached to 

1 District Order by Colonel W. Bellairs, C.B., Commanding Transvaal 

District : 

"PRETORIA, Qtk January 1881. 

"During the action of the 6th inst. a white flag of truce was hoisted 
from the position occupied by the rebels. The officer commanding the 
troops consequently ordered the cease-firing, and sent forward two white 
flags from different points in response. The rebels then deliberately re- 
opened fire on the officers carrying the flags and on our men, who, having 
risen from cover, had exposed themselves. The casualties which oc- 
curred to the 2-21st Regiment that day arose solely from this treacherous 

" In order to protect the troops against a recurrence of loss of life from 
such savage proceedings, it becomes necessary to direct that, whenever 
a flag of truce is displayed from a rebel position, no one from our side 
should advance to meet it until it has come, unaccompanied by any 
armed body, close to our line. The troops will be careful to keep under 
cover on such occasion, although the cease-firing may have sounded, 
until the officer commanding directs them to rise." 


reinforce the right. Colour-Sergeant Hardwick was CHAP. 

. . ni. 

slightly wounded when moving forward in command of 

the right half-company of the Fusiliers ; while Lieu- 
tenant Stanuell, although he frequently exposed him- 
self with marked coolness, escaped his water-bottle, 
however, receiving two bullets, and his sword-scabbard 
being indented by another. Colour-Sergeant Finch 
who had nearly completed twenty-one years' service 
was killed in the final advance of the Fusilier line. 

A high estimate was formed at the time of the The ene- 

c> n my's losses. 

enemy s losses ; but besides that of the fifteen pris- 
oners, only five men were known positively, by their 
bodies having been seen, to have been killed. Many 
saddles were reported to have been " emptied " ; but 
as the Boer, in order to fire, drops quickly off his 
saddle under cover, it may be suspected that errors 
in calculation were made through taking appearance 
for fact. 

An example was made of a man of the Pretoria 
Rifles for misbehaviour before the enemy, by sending 
him before a court-martial, when he was sentenced to 
dismissal, and degraded to the performance of menial 

One of the anibulance-waofQfons which had been 

OO c, i 

sent out to Bronkhorst Spruit on the 21st returned on wounded. 
the 27th December, bringing eight of the less seriously 
wounded men of the 94th Regiment, together with 
reports and lists of the killed and wounded. Surgeon- 
Major Comerford had remained behind to render 
assistance in the numerous dangerous cases, many of 

138 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, which required amputation, and did not come in until 
the 6th January, the same day that the Zwart Kopje 
Laager was attacked. Owing to this coincidence, the 
Surgeon-Major was suspected by the Boers of course 
wrongfully of having when passing given useful in- 
formation regarding the position of the laager, and 
further communication with the Bronkliorst Spruit 
party was not permitted. It was gratifying, how- 
ever, to learn that the men were fairly treated and 
tolerably well supplied with provisions extras, such 
as milk, eggs, fowls, &c., which could be procured on 
the adjoining farms, being sold to them. Now and 
then some little information would come in about 
them. Two messages were received asking for medi- 
cines of particular kinds. The first package sent never 
reached, it having, it was believed, been appropriat- 
ed on its way, to relieve the wants of some sick or 
wounded Boers. 

unemis. Military funerals were conducted with somewhat less 
than the honours customary in peace-time. A little 
while before, two officers Lieut. -Colonel Hazlerigg 
and Lieutenant Justice of the Eoyal Scots Fusiliers, 
who had died of enteric fever, were buried with great 
ceremony, the whole garrison, with many of the 
Government officials and townspeople, following their 
remains through the town to the cathedral, and thence 
to the cemetery. Such occasional impressive displays 
very likely serve a purpose ; but their frequency during 
a state of siege would certainly have been out of place, 
when the object should rather be to raise than depress 


the spirits of the inhabitants. Even as it was dis- CHAP. 

pensing with the beautiful but sad slow " Dead March " 

from the band, and the rattle of musketry volleys over 
the grave the sight of the funeral cortege winding its 
way down from the camp to the cemetery, about three- 
quarters of a mile below, with the sad wail now high, 
then low from the bagpipes, as the procession neared 
its destination, w r as no doubt depressing enough to 
many watchers who remained behind, as well as those 
who accompanied the funeral. 

The town cemetery, adjoining which was an allot- Cemetery. 
ment for the garrison, is situated on the flat ground 
to the west of the town a desolate, dirty-looking 
locality, surrounded by brick-kilns, and endangered 
during the wet season by water-courses. During the 
investment it was found necessary to enlarge the 
military portion, and surround it with a more sub- 
stantial wall ; but although left in good order when 
the troops withdrew, it is to be feared that, from the 
nature of the soil and surroundings, the place will 
soon fall into ruin, unless the town authorities find 
themselves in a position to take charge of the whole 
cemetery, and expend money in improving it by 
drainage and planting. 

o 1 O 

There were a considerable number of natives Natives. 
in the town and camp between 1300 and 1400 
drawing rations a large portion of whom were 
located at the mission station, a separate cantonment 
in the lower part of the town, and the remainder were 
employed by the Commissariat and Transport Depart- 

140 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, ment, or as servants, &c., by the civilians. The 

in. ' _ J 

natives belonging to the place were generally inferior 
in physique and intelligence to the town natives met 
with in Natal, but were tractable, and, considering the 
opportunities afforded in a deserted town, not so much 
given to pilfering as might have been expected. 
Indeed we heard of cases in which articles of value 
lost, having been found by natives, were restored to 
the owners ; whilst property left in their charge in 
vacated houses was usually carefully looked after. 

The natives not already in the employment of the 
Commissariat or as servants one to each family were 
formed into labour corps, composed of a medley of 
Zulus, Swazis, Portugee-men from Delagoa Bay, and 
a majority of Tongas, ably organised by Assistant 
Commissary-General Walton who, from his acquain- 
tance with the Zulu language and the customs of the 
natives, exercised considerable influence over these men 
and sent out daily to carry out different necessary 
works improving the water-supply, manufacturing 
Idltony, or fuel, scavengering, &c., while some were 
utilised as scouts, to give warning of any attempt to 
enter or leave the town or lines by night. By day the 
latter would sometimes be mounted on mules, trained 
for this purpose, when action and disease had seriously 
diminished the number of horses. In order to protect 
the natives from any disposition to molest or abuse 
them, a military notice was early published, that 
" Any soldier, volunteer, or civilian found ill-treating 
or threatening any native, will be immediately arrested 
and handed over to the provost-marshal, and be dealt 


with accordingly." The words, "be dealt with ac- CHAP. 

cordingly," were somewhat indefinite, but probably 

on that account all the more impressive. In point 
of fact though, cases arising with natives not in 
military pay, were handed over to the Landdrost 
for disposal in the usual way in his court. 

Through the foresight shown in the timely seiz- commis- 
ure of all supplies, 1 and precaution in placing the pLs. s 
whole population on regular daily rations, 2 waste and 
want were prevented, and every man, woman, and 
child received sufficient food until the 14th March, 
when, owing to the uncertainty still prevailing as to 
when relief might arrive, it was deemed prudent to re- 
duce the scale of the men's ration, though the women's 
and children's were continued the same as before. 

Bread was at first baked in the town, at the con- 
tractor's ovens ; but, later on, a very successful bak- 
ery was erected by the Eoyal Engineers in the camp, 
and good bread was turned out by the Commissariat. 
Biscuit and preserved meats were issued twice a-week. 
These supplies had, in part, been a long time in hand 
surplus stock of previous campaigns and had 
undergone great exposure and knocking about in 
transit, with the result that much of the biscuit was 
"weevilly," and about one-sixth of the tinned meat 
unfit for consumption. 

At the beginning of February a market was started 
in the camp for the sale of vegetables, fruit, &c., at 
regulated prices. 

1 See Appendix M. 2 See Appendix N. 

142 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. The town was supplied with water from the 
- stream below and to the east of the camp around, 

supply, sluits, or deep furrows, having been cut to divert the 

water to either side of the streets. The camp had 
water similarly conveyed to it ; but as it was impos- 
sible to prevent such open sluits from becoming in 
some degree defiled at times, this \vater was only 
allowed to be used for washing purposes, and water- 
carts supplied all required for drinking or cooking. 
The carts, drawn by oxen, were filled at the stream 
itself, about a mile off, non-commissioned officers and 
soldiers being detailed to accompany them, and ensure 
all orders being carried out by the native drivers, and 
the proper delivery of the water, otherwise the natives 
would have been apt to fill the barrels at nearer, and, 
to them, more convenient spots. All this was in 
itself, for such a large number of people, no incon- 
siderable labour ; but there is no doubt it contrib- 
uted largely to the good health enjoyed throughout 
by the community. Mounted patrols were regularly 
sent for some distance along the banks of the stream, 
to see that no dead or dying oxen or other animals 
were near to pollute the water. 

conserva- In view of the time when the rainfall would lessen, 
water. steps were taken for the conservation of waste water, 
by the construction of dams and reservoirs in the 
valley near the cattle-kraal, to the west of the camp. 
By the end of February, Captain Churchill, Deputy- 
Assistant Adjutant-General, and Mr Maben, C.E., had 
between them, with the aid of native labour, stored 
a large quantity of water, which proved most useful 


for horses and cattle, while the works also served the CHAP. 
purpose of rendering the ground in that neighbour- 
hood of the camp less marshy and unhealthy. 

The slaughter -cattle numbered about 1600 orig- slaughter- 
inally. They were herded at night in a kraal 500 
yards below the camp. The spot had been set aside 
some months before for soldiers' gardens a plot for 
each corps to give the men some occupation and 
amusement. There being already a ditch with wire- 
fencing round, the place was at once selected to suit 
the sudden emergency and necessity for kraaling the 
oxen, and a civilian was placed in charge as pound- 
master, with natives to assist him. On the night of 
the 4th January the camp was disturbed by a stam- 
pede of the oxen broken loose from the kraal. The 
pickets failed to arrest the onward course of the 
animals in the dark, and the following morning dis- 
closed a loss of about seventy oxen. An examination 
of the wire-fencing showed that it had been tampered 
with, and deliberately cut in several places, proving 
that traitors had been at work. The poundmaster 
was arrested by the deputy provost - marshal ; but 
although there were suspicious circumstances, suffi- 
cient evidence was not forthcoming to establish a 
case against him or others. A change in supervision 
was made, and as soon as time admitted, a brick wall 
was built round the kraal to render it more secure. 
On an average about fifteen oxen were slaughtered 
daily. About 180 transport and slaughter oxen died 
from disease during the investment. 

144 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. The difficulty of providing food for such large 
- numbers of horses, transport-oxen and mules, and 

Food for 

horses and slaughter-oxen altogether not far short of 3000 am- 


mals at the commencement was very great, and 
became a source of constant anxiety, so much depend- 
ing upon the ability to keep them in good condition. 
Without a sufficiency of fresh meat, the health of the 
population would soon have suffered. It was there- 
fore essential that the cattle should have ample 
grazing-ground, which in the Transvaal means runs 
over a very much greater extent than would be 
wanted in England, and under efficient protection. 
This could be ensured only through the horses of the 
mounted force being kept in a fit condition for the 
extensive scouting and patrolling work required of 
them. A collapse in horse-power would at once have 
enabled the enemy to close in upon the place, and, 
while endangering the safety of the town, have re- 
sulted in the loss of the cattle through raids, starva- 
tion, or disease. 

In misty or wet weather, when it was necessary 
to draw in the vedettes, the cattle had to be re- 
stricted to the immediate vicinity of the camp, 
where little or no grazing was left. Only a few of 
the horses could be allowed to graze at a time, the 
rest being already out patrolling or required as a 

iiaymak- The desirability of supplementing the forage- 
supplies on hand, by cutting grass and making 
hay, soon impressed itself upon the military au- 


thorities ; and it being discovered that there were CHAP. 

. Hi- 

several mowing - machines available in the mer- 
chants' stores, they were quickly commandeered and 
set to work. 

The first machine was started under the superinten- Capture of 
dence of a head of a Government department, who had machine ty 

the enemy. 

been attached to the Commissariat ; but that gentle- 
man's zeal to secure a good cut one day the llth 
January outran his discretion, leading him to go too 
far afield down the valley towards Elandsfontein 
without first obtaining protecting armed co-operation. 
The Boers seeing' him a fair prey, first sent some men 
to engage the attention of a small look-out party 
of the Pretoria Carbineers posted on a distant flank- 
ing hill, and then swooped down on the mowing- 
machine, the superintendent only having time to 
mount the reaper behind him on his English horse, 
and gallop off. The mowing-machine was disabled 
and left on the ground, about three miles from 
the camp ; but the mules were carried off. Ser- 
geant Levy, who was in command of the party of 
Carbineers, was wounded in the hand ; a corporal 
temporarily maimed by a kick from his horse ; and 
two horses were lost. 

This experience led to orders being given that the 
mowing-machines should only work under special 
protection, or in the immediate neighbourhood of the 
large cattle -guard which always went out when the 
cattle grazed any distance off. This generally con- 
sisted of about half a company of infantry, with a 
7-pounder gun, under an officer, perched on some 




CHAP, commanding rise or hill, and an officer's mounted 

patrol with vedettes thrown out. 

The machines were worked under great difficulties, 
owing to the excessively stony nature of the country 
around ; and often came in disabled before a day's 
work could be got out of them. As soon as cut, the 
grass was carted into the camp, made into hay, and 

Attack of 
the 16th 

The loss of the mowing-machine, waggon, and 
mules, captured by Boers supposed to have come from 
a laager at Elandsfontein Farm, caused more attention 
to be given to that quarter, and observations were 
made with a view to attacking the position. The 
precise situation of the waggon-laager was imperfectly 
known, it being placed in a kloof below a ridge or spur 
of the Magaliesberg range, ten miles due west from 
the camp, where it could not easily be overlooked 
until the ridge was gained. The left extremity of 
the Litter being, however, fortified with two stone 
laagers or walled-in defences and some schanzes, gave 
indications of its probable whereabouts. On the 16th 
January, a reconnaissance in force was made, with the 
intention of ascertaining more about it, and effect- 
ing its destruction should the opportunity be found 
favourable for that purpose. 

The column left at four o'clock in the morning, 
Lieut. -Colonel Gildea proceeding in command ; Col- 
onel Bellairs not wishing to remain long absent 
from the place intending to leave later on. It 
consisted as follows : Two field-gams ; one mountain- 


gun, carried on a cart; 170 mounted men 45 of CHAP. 
mounted infantry, 65 of Pretoria Carbineers, and 
60 of Nourse's Horse ; and 300 foot, 120 of Koyal 
Scots Fusiliers, 30 of 94th Eegiment, and 150 of 
Pretoria Eifles the latter being conveyed on fifteen 

Lieutenant Littledale with a few sappers had been Diversion 
sent in a contrary direction, some miles due east, explosions, 
towards Middleburg, to explode some dynamite, and 
by giving rise to an impression that we were at- 
tacking in that quarter create a diversion, and draw 
some of the enemy to that side. The explosions took 
place about six o'clock, when the column had arrived 
about half the way, and, as was subsequently ascer- 
tained, were successful in their object, parties of 
Boers having been attracted to that locality from the 
Red House and other laagers. 

Fifty of the Pretoria Eifles were detached to hold Disposition 

, .,, iipi -i 1-1 oftheforce. 

a hill to the lelt, about three miles out, which com- 
manded the Quagga Poort. Nourse's Horse scouted 
to the right, and the Pretoria Carbineers to the left 
front. On Hearing the ridge, the enemy was observed 
in occupation, and to have lighted a signal - fire. 
Nourse's Horse were then ordered to move on the 
opposite end of the ridge to where the stone defences 
were, and the Carbineers to a hill about 2000 yards 
to the left, from whence, it was thought, any rein- 
forcements arriving might be driven off. Leaving the 
remainder of the Pretoria Eifles on a rocky rise, as a 
reserve, with the waggons laagered, the Fusiliers were 
thrown forward in skirmishing order, and the 9- 

148 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, pounder guns brought into action. Meanwhile, Lieut. - 
Colonel Gildea, reconnoitring on foot, from some 
rising ground to his left front, was able to make out 
the laager. Finding it a particularly strong one a 
blockhouse in front, with loopholed wall and schanzes 
around he came to the conclusion that the only place 
to take it from, without great loss of life, would be 
the ridge, where Nourse's Horse, under Lieutenant 
Glyn their horses left under cover were already 
busily engaged in dislodging the enemy from rock to 
rock. While Lieut. -Colonel Gildea was thus recon- 
noitring, Colonel Bellairs, who had galloped out with 
an escort of half-a-dozen Carbineers, reached the scene 
of action ; but on meeting Lieut. -Colonel Gildea, he 
desired that officer to continue in command and carry 
out his intended movements, to send the mountain- 
gun and rocket apparatus, with 50 of the Fusiliers, 
to support Nourse's Horse, and drive the enemy off 
the ridge. 

Progress Meantime the skirmishers the Fusiliers along the 
attack. base of the ridge, and the 94th scouts thrown out to 
the left were hotly engaged ; the guns were drop- 
ping shells about the stone laagers and schanzes on 
the ridge, though by no means successfully ; and the 
men of Nourse's Horse were vigorously forcing the 
Boers back, until, finally, they had driven them into 
the rear stone laager, though many of them still 
hung under cover over the rise. It seemed now as if, 
with the support of the mountain-gun and infantry 
on the ridge, success was likely to crown our efforts, 
and that the position and laager below would be 


taken ; but first, difficulty and delay were experi- CHAP. 
enced in dismounting and hauling the gun up the 
ridge, and then Boer reinforcements appeared in Boer rein- 
sight, streaming over the Nek to the south, and thus arrive. 
turning our left. Unfortunately, too, through some 
misconception, the Carbineers had been withdrawn 
from the crest to the bottom of the hill, which they 
had been sent to occupy on the left, and from which 
they might have been useful in disputing or delay- 
ing the advance of the enemy's reinforcements. The 
error was noticed by Colonel Bellairs, but could not 
be rectified in time to be of any service. 1 Boers 
perhaps 200 came filing over the Nek, and then 
came another large party. As they reached the 
valley below, finding they would have to cross an 
intervening flat, exposed to artillery -fire, before they 
could gain cover from further rising ground, they 
started of at speed, scattering themselves far and 
wide. In vain were shells sent after them ; they ap- 
peared to produce little or no effect. Indeed the 
artillery practice throughout the day had been bad ; 
and Lieut. -Colonel Gildea afterwards reported that, 
" had it been what it ought to have been, he would 
have had possession of the ridge before the enemy's 

1 Lieut. -Colonel Gildea in his published report says, with regard to this 
incident : " I had already ascended the hill, and had the 7-pounder gun 
dismounted, when I saw the enemy in force coming over a range of hills 
to the left rear. Had Captain Sanctuary held this hill, as he might have 
done, the enemy's movement in this direction would have been checked. 
It is true, Captain Sanctuary got orders from me to reinforce the 94th 
scouts to the front, who were hotly engaged ; but seeing the enemy 
turning our flank, he might, under the altered circumstances, have used 
his own discretion, and reocctipied the hill he had just left." 

150 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, reinforcements arrived." Later on, when Mr Hend- 

rick Schoeman, Assistant - General of the district 

around Pretoria, was allowed into camp, under a 
flag of truce, he told of the dance these reinforce- 
ments had been led, through the ruse of Lieutenant 
Littledale's explosions to the east, and the delay 
which ensued in retracing their steps and reaching 
Elandsfontein, when they at last discovered where 
the real attack was proceeding. And when, the war 
concluded, the Boer commander of the laager came 
into Pretoria, he mentioned to some that, but for the 
timely arrival of the reinforcements, he was so hard 
pressed that the position must have been taken and 
the waggon-laager broken up. 

circum- The effect on the enemy on the ridge, when they 
leading saw their supports at hand, was soon perceptible, in 
<ira\vai. greater boldness in showing themselves and renewed 
vigour in action. Lieut.-Colonel Gildea, on seeing 
their approach, descended the ridge, whither he had 
gone to superintend the movement of the intended 
support the mountain - gun and 50 Fusiliers to 
Nourse's Horse ; and considering that, in the altered 
circumstances, it would not be advisable to continue 
any further forward operation, he proposed that the 
column should be withdrawn. Colonel Bellairs acqui- 
esced in this prudent course, it being then obvious 
that the time had gone by the attack not having 
been developed in time to admit of any final suc- 
cessful assault being made before the Boer reinforce- 
ments came up ; and that the prolongation of the 
attack would now only entail the loss of many men 


without compensating results. 1 The Artillery and CHAP. 
Fusiliers were accordingly directed to fall back on - 
the reserve Pretoria Eifles which had remained 
posted on the rocky rise in rear, where many a 
package of cartridges was discovered by the Boers, 
as they afterwards asserted, hidden behind stones, 

1 Lieut. -Colonel Gildea in his report says : 

" The Colonel Commanding agreeing with me that it would not be 
advisable to continue the advance, I ordered all the forces to assemble 
on the kopje where my supports were which was effected without 

"Finding there was one of the 94th mounted infantry and two of 
the 21st Fusiliers missing, I made preparations to go back over the 
ground we had evacuated to find them ; but being informed that the 
enemy had been seen carrying them away, I did not carry out my 

And Colonel Bellairs added: " Lieut. -Colonel Gildea exercised a 
sound discretion in withdrawing at the time he did, when, from the 
rebels having been reinforced by several hundred Boers coming up 
on our left flank, it would have been difficult to have dislodged the 
enemy from the final stronghold held without greater losses than 
warranted. The troops, besides, had been already eight hours under 

Mr Du-Val, in his jauntily written book, ' With a Show in South- 
ern Africa,' is in error, when in his chapter giving an account of the 
Elandsfontein attack he implies that, but for the arrival of Colonel 
Bellairs during the operations, and his giving " a very pronoimced opin- 
ion that the game of taking the remnant of the ridge was not worth 
the risk to life it would entail," the attacking party would not have 
been withdrawn, and would have eventually achieved the success they 

Now Colonel Bellairs had reached the scene of action earlier than 
Mr Du-Val represents, or seems to have been aware of certainly some 
time before the Boer reinforcements, which led to the withdrawal, first 
showed themselves and had been quietly noting the progress of the 
attack, when Lieut.-Colonel Gildea, coming up to report himself, was 
requested to continue in command and make his own dispositions. 
Lieut.-Colonel Gildea then proposed to accelerate the attack by send- 
ing the 7-pounder gun and rocket apparatus up the ridge to the assist- 
ance of Nourse's Horse. Colonel Bellairs agreed in the desirability 
of this action. 

Some time, however, elapsed in the endeavour to give effect to this 

152 THE TEANSVAAL WAK, 1880-81. 

CHAP, and intentionally left for them by some of their 
friends in the midst of us ! 

The withdrawal of the skirmishers was quickly 
followed up by the enemy ; and the mountain-gun, 
worked by bandsmen of the Fusiliers, was then 
brought into action, to assist in checking their ad- 
vance. It was now found that two of the Fusiliers 

plan ; when, suddenly, the enemy's reinforcements appearing, crossing 
the range to the south, Lieut.-Colonel Gildea was induced to pause, 
descend the ridge which he had climbed, and seek Colonel Bellairs. 
On meeting him he at once suggested that, under the changed circum- 
stances, the troops should withdraw. Colonel Bellairs acquiesced in 
the prudence of this proposal. 

Another interval ensued, during which the Fusilier skirmishers 
had fallen hack. Colonel Bellairs was with an ambulance-waggon, 
which had moved to the front, seeing to some wounded men, when 
Lieut.-Colonel Gildea reported to him that two of his men had, by 
some extraordinary mischance, remained in front when the rest of the 
skirmishers retired, and were now missing. The question arose as to 
whether, on the chance of recovering them, the force should retrace its 
steps and return to the attack. It was, however, clear that the absence 
of the men had not been discovered or reported until too late for any 
effective rescue to be made, and that they must have already as re- 
ported to have been seen fallen into the hands of the enemy ; also, 
that a renewal of the attack, after the advantages previously gained 
had been already given up, could only be carried out with greatly 
diminished prospect of success. It was at this period that Colonel 
Bellairs, conversing with Lieut.-Colonel Gildea, expressed "a very pro- 
nounced opinion" apparently overheard by Mr Du-Val to the effect 
that the value of such attacks was questionable, " the game not worth 
the candle." 

The reports quoted above, made at the time by Lieut. - Colonel 
Gildea, show that the action taken by that officer was wholly in 
agreement with Colonel Bellairs. Of course it is open to Mr Du-Val, 
or any one else, to form his own opinion as to whether success would 
have been likely to have attended a continuance of the attack after the 
Boer reinforcements had arrived ; but it may be reasonably supposed 
that the two senior officers, responsible for the situation and the safety 
of the force, knew something of their business, and would not have 
withdrawn without sufficient cause, and it being the most judicious 
course to follow. 


and a 94th mounted man were missing. Lieut.- CHAP. 


Colonel Gildea was inclined to advance again over 
the ground to find and bring them in ; but this inten- 
tion was abandoned, when it was ascertained that the 
men must have fallen into the hands of the enemy 
the information received at the time pointing to 
that conclusion. 

The two Fusiliers would appear to have been on Gallant 

. . . conduct of 

the extreme left of the skirmishing line, and, in the two men. 
din of action, not to have noticed that the remainder 
of their comrades had retired, when some Boers from 
the reinforcements, coming up unobserved on their 
flank, fired at and wounded both one mortally. 

This gave occasion to a display of great gallantry 
on the part of two men Lance -Corporal James 
Murray of the mounted troop, 94th Regiment, and 
Trooper Thomas Danaher of Nourse's Horse, but 
since of the 94th Regiment whose deeds gained for 
them the following distinguished mention of their 
names by Colonel Bellairs at the time, and subse- 
quently the award of the Victoria Cross: "The 
gallant act performed by Trooper Danaher of 
Nourse's Horse, and Lance-Corporal Murray of the 
mounted troop, 94th Regiment, who, under a heavy 
fire, dashed forward to rescue a wounded man of the 
2cl battalion 21st Regiment, who had fallen when 
the skirmishers were retiring, deserves distinguished 
mention. Corporal Murray, in this endeavour, fell 
severely wounded into the hands of the enemy, but 
was sent in under a flag of truce the following day." 
Danaher did not quit Murray until told by the latter 

154 THE TRANSVAAL WAK, 1880-81. 

CHAP, to do so. and seeing that he could not save him ; he 

then fired some parting shots, and escaped unhurt, 

notwithstanding the heavy fire. 
Return of At about eleven o'clock the column commenced its 

the col- . . . . ., . 

umn. return journey, the miantry, in the waggons, iol- 
lowino; the road, as soon as it was reached from off 

O ' 

the long grass ; while the guns, keeping to the higher 

ground, retired alternately, rapidly from position to 

position, one gun always remaining in action to cover 

the other. Colonel Bellairs, fearing a possible rush 

to capture them, remained with them, directing their 

movements. The Carbineers and mounted infantry 

protected the right and rear, and Nourse's Horse 

the left. The Boers followed until within three 

miles of the camp, hanging on the flanks and rear, 

and keeping up a running fight the whole time ; 

racing to gain possession of a kopje or position from 

which they might be able to harass the retiring 

column in fiank, but frustrated by the celerity with 

which they were forestalled by Lieutenant Grlyn with 

Xcmrse's Horse. Though kept at long range by the 

excellent stand made by the mounted troops, under 

cover of successive positions, and occasional shells 

directed against them, the Boers were able to exhibit 

to advantage their fine qualifications as mounted 

skirmishers, and capacity for selecting cover. The 

withdrawal of troops under fire of a pursuing enemy 

is at all times difficult ; but was probably more than 

usually so on this occasion, the Boers hovering all round, 

and showing marked ability to seize any opportunity 

ottering for attacking to advantage. Altogether the 


affair was a very interesting sight, both sides deserving CHAP. 
credit for the fight on Elandsfontein Kidge, and the 
pretty skirmishing along the valley afterwards. The 
troops had been six hours under fire, and only got 
back to camp about three o'clock, having been nearly 
twelve hours under arms. Nourse's Horse received 
high praise, Colonel Bellairs remarking that " the 
way in which Nourse's Horse engaged the rebels 
during the attack on their strong position, and sub- 
sequently selected and defended ground to cover the 
withdrawal, specially attracted my attention, and 
merits high commendation." 

The enemy's losses \vere unknown, otherwise than Losses. 
from native reports, which could not be relied upon, 
though it was ascertained that the commandant of 


the laager, Mr Henning Pretorius, was one of their 
wounded. An offer having been made to allow the 
two wounded men we had lost on the field to come 
in, an ambulance, accompanied by Dr Dyer, a civil 
surgeon, who spoke Dutch, was sent out the following 
day for them. Dr Dyer was not allowed to approach 
the laager, and found the Boers very reticent, even 
refusing his offer of surgical assistance to their 
wounded. Our losses were two killed and eight 
wounded, all dangerously or severely, and seventeen 
horses killed or wounded. Sergeant Fitz-Clements of 
Nourse's Horse, a Swiss, captured four of the enemy's 

The column was returning from this engagement, The town 
and the last shots had just been fired, when guns by another 

, . . . r i r> i party of the 

were heard in the direction ol the torts to the west enemy. 

156 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, of the camp. Colonel Bellairs at once galloped back 
to the camp, where he found some excitement exist- 
ing, the women and children having been hastily 
ordered into the huts and places of shelter, on account 
of anticipated attack, and all available mounted men, 
including the Administrator with some of the Gov- 


ernment officials, having gone out to oppose a party 
of Boers who had approached the town on its western 
side. It appeared that the latter were about sixty in 
number, and had shot some cattle grazing on Mr 
Mear's farm, on the other side of the river, at the 
same time sending a bullet through Mr Mear's hat, 
as he was standing in the verandah of his house. On 
being discovered from the forts, and coming within 
range, the Krupp 4-pounder guns opened, for the 
first time during the investment ; and a shell from 
Fort Royal falling in their midst two men, it was 
said, being struck they quickly retired, the party of 
mounted infantry sent out being only able to reach 
the ground in time to exchange a few long-range 
shots with them one of our horses being, however, 
wounded. The Jail Bastion gun was also brought to 
bear on a supposed enemy a small group of men 
without distinguishing military dress when luckily, 
just in time, it was, with the aid of glasses, rightly 
conjectured that, instead of Boers, they might be Sir 
Owen Lanyon and some members of his Executive 

The practicability of relieving the Potchefstroom 
garrison from Pretoria had been again mooted, but the 


project was now reluctantly and finally abandoned, it CHAP. 
being recognised as too hazardous for any such body of 
troops as were available to be detailed for the purpose, abandoned. 
while at the same time imperilling the safety of the 
capital through withdrawal of the regular troops and 
mounted men to form the column. The experiences 
gained by the Elandsfontein affair had shown how 
capable the Boer could be in the art of harassing 
troops on a march encumbered with supply-waggons ; 
and that any such mounted body as could be sent out 
from Pretoria would be wholly insufficient to effectu- 
ally keep off so active and mobile an enemy, who 
could soon assemble from 1000 to 2000 men to dispute 
the way. A daily running fight would have had to 
be maintained for over two hundred miles, there 
and back, the enemy having to be driven out of ad- 
vantageous and naturally defensive positions ahead, 
which would invariably have been found preoccupied. 1 

1 From Colonel W. Bellairs, C.B., Commanding Transvaal 
District, to the Administrator, Transvaal. 

" PRETORIA, January 17, 1881. 

" SIR, I wish to report for your Excellency's information, that the 
recent encounters with rebel Boers, particularly those which took place in 
the neighbourhood of Pretoria on the 6th and 16th instant, appear to 
demonstrate the impracticability of success being achieved in the direction 
of relieving Potchefstroom by the despatch of any such small field-column 
as could be spared from Pretoria. 

" Composed as such a force would necessarily be of infantry mainly, 
it may be doubted whether it would be able to maintain a running fight 
for several days for over 100 miles or reach its destination otherwise 
than in such a crippled state as to render its return impossible with 
a tenacious foe, such as the rebel Boers have up to the present proved 
themselves to be, born hunters, taking every advantage of ground and 
cover, knowing the country well, and hanging on our Hanks and rear. 
The infantry and few mounted men with the column could not at all 
times keep the wholly mounted enemy beyond rifle-shot of the guns 





There were four civil medical practitioners, one of 
whom acted as the district surgeon. A project had 
latterly been on foot to establish a small civil 
hospital, but hostilities intervening had prevented 
its being carried out. In case of any serious 

and waggons ; and the inevitable result would be that the artillery horses 
would be shot, and the transport of necessary supplies of provisions and 
ammunition impeded. 

" I am fully borne out in this opinion by Lieutenant-Colonel Gildea, 
my second in command an officer known for his enterprise and daring, 
and who would be the first to advocate and ask to lead any feasible 

" Were a field-column to be sent out, otherwise than for a short dis- 
tance, all her Majesty's troops would have to be withdrawn for the 
purpose. This would necessitate handing over the defence of the camp 
and place wholly to the townspeople, and the drawing in of the lines 
certainly giving up the jail and convent positions. This action would, 
I conceive, be fraught with danger ; and were any reverse to happen to 
the field-column which, as I have already remarked, I consider but too 
probable' would no doubt lead to Pretoria being attacked in force. 

" If the rebels continue to fight as they have begun and I see no in- 
dication at present of their losing heart or withdrawing the only means 
of effectually contending against them and re-establishing communica- 
tions with Natal and the different out-stations, will be by the timely 
arrival of cavalry reinforcements, say 1000 men, from England or India. 

" I would therefore advise your Excellency to take the earliest, most 
direct, and quickest way of fully informing the Home Government of 
tin.' present critical military situation in this province, and the urgent 
necessity which exists for the despatch of cavalry reinforcements. 

" During the last four weeks despatches and messages have been sent 
to Sir G. Pomeroy Colley, conveying information by various channels 
as t<> the state of affairs and warnings as to the mode of warfare adopted 
by the rebels, but we have no knowledge as to whether any of them 
have reached. 

" The last communication received from Sir George was dated the 
l!Hh December. It then appeared that he was sending up reinforce- 
ments of infantry with four guns and a small body of mounted men. 
This column will probably experience much difficulty in moving through 
the country, if met in anything like the spirit the rebels have exhibited 

" Should your Excellency have an early opportunity, I should be 
glad if a copy of this letter could be forwarded to the Major-General 


accident occurring to a person having no home, CHAP. 

he would be taken to the jail for treatment, as the 

only public building or institution available. The 
military hospital camp, which had occupied a central 
position on the camp ground, was withdrawn for 
greater protection within the interior lines. An iron 
store, used by the Ordnance Store Department, was 
given over as a medical store and dispensary, two of 
the stone huts as hospital wards, and several marquees 
and tents placed for the remainder of the patients in 
the provost prison-yard and the adjoining inclosure. 

Civilians were classified, for hospital treatment, the 
same as soldiers and the members of their families. 
Medical men visited the camps, and medicines were 
dispensed at the hospital at stated hours every morn- 
ing and afternoon. Medical comforts, extra articles 
of diet, were timely Driven to such as showed signs 

7 / O O 

of requiring them, especially women and children 
thus warding off the tendency to sickness. The 
general medical arrangements were entirely satis- 
factory, and deservedly appreciated by the civil 
population all classes having confidence in the 
skill of the surgeons, and feeling that the best was 
being done for them. The unexpected additional 
duties and enlarged responsibilities suddenly imposed 
on Brigade- Surgeon Sheen were ably met, and diffi- 
culties in organisation thoughtfully foreseen or pro- 
vided against. 1 

1 Mr Charles Du-Val, in his camp paper of the 15th January 1881, 
thus pays a high tribute to the efficiency of the hospital arrangements 
made : 

" If war evokes the fiercer passions of man, it has the advantage of 

Civil sur- 

160 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Some trouble there was with the civil doctors, who, 
after performing certain medical duties assigned to 
them by district orders for about three weeks, com- 
bined in objecting to their services being thus compul- 
sorily required, as was done with all civilians, and per- 
emptorily demanded five guineas a-day remuneration, 
or that their resignation should be accepted. As some 

also awakening the better side of his nature, and foremost may be 
ranked the efforts made the moment the strife of battle is over to alle- 
viate the sufferings of those who have been its victims, and whose 
wounded frames testify to its destructive forces. We were particularly 
struck with this, not once, but over and over again, when visiting the 
military hospitals of the camp, and noting the great care and evident 
solicitude exhibited to both wounded friend and foe, and the unsparing 
endeavours made to render their convalescence speedy and painless. 
And another feature, and one of the brightest in this the sad side of 
warfare, is the evident cheerfulness with which these endeavours are 
curried out, awakening, as they evidently do, a response from the suffer- 
ers, who take their fate like men, and, accepting the hazard of war, bear 
their sufferings uncomplainingly. There is no lack of attention, either 
iVom the officials connected with the hospitals or the outside public, 
who desire to show their interest in the success of those whose imme- 
diate duty it is to administer to the wounded, and to heal the sick. 
Therefore it is that we desire to offer a meed of praise to the workers 
in the hospitals ; and we feel certain that we are expressing the senti- 
ments of its wounded occupants in saying that these workers, from the 
head of the medical staff to the meanest attendant, have secured, as 
they deserve, the warmest gratitude from those whom war's mischances 
have placed broken and wounded in their care." 

And again, writing on the 2d March, on the " Health State of the 
( 'amp," he thus expresses himself : 

"Grumblers we have many amongst us, and deep and dire are the 
anathemas growled out by persons who generally have not much really 
to complain of. We ask those discontented ones to reflect upon the 
health state of the camp as it is, and as it has been from the beginning 
of the Pivtorian exodus to the present time. We think there is scarcely 
any second opinion that 5000 people suddenly huddled together into 
spaces so small as those comprised in the Military Camp and Tronk 
Laager, and dwelling for the period of seventy days in such confined 
places, can point to a death-rate so small, and a general health report 
so free from serious disease." 


of these gentlemen had accompanied the ambulance CHAP. 
in the field, and so performed military duty, it was 
decided to give them the same rate of pay one 
guinea a - day each as granted to civil surgeons 
during the Zulu campaign. This amount being 
deemed insufficient and objected to, their further 
services somewhat to their surprise were dispensed 
with by the officer commanding. The " strike " 
would have been only an amusing incident, but that 
the example thus set was likely to have, and proba- 
bly had, an evil influence on others, particularly as 
the leader in this case was seen to be a Government 
medical officer. The latter, however, seemed to con- 
sider that he had right on his side, and had been 
badly treated, for he continued afterwards to urge 
attention to the matter by printing a circular giving 
the correspondence to the public. 1 

1 " The ' News of the Camp ' of the 20th January 1881, contained the 
following remarks : 

" There is an old adage which says, ' When doctors differ, who is to 
decide ? ' and we presume it is owing to the tendency of medical gentle- 
men to hold opposite opinions when in consultation which suggested the 
old saying we have quoted. But here, at the present moment, we have 
the rule duly proved by the exception, and a beautiful evidence of una- 
nimity of sentiment displayed by the civilian medical men at present in 
camp and laager. These gentlemen have thrown down the gage to the 
authorities, and refused to do farther duty, upon the grounds of insuffi- 
cient payment. And when we first heard of the disagreement we were 
under the impression that their services had been impressed, and as far 
as we could learn, the matter of payment had not been arranged, nor was 
it apparently contemplated. Further inquiries, however, have brought 
some facts to the surface which throw additional light, and by it we are 
enabled to perceive that the grounds of complaint are not of the serious 
character implied. The Government authorities, it appears from the 
notice which we have perused, offered all the civil medical gentlemen the 
allowance of a guinea a-day, free rations for themselves, families, and 
servants, and also granted permission for any private practice that could 






The supply of fuel was a constant and severe 
labour, large quantities being necessary for the com- 
missariat bakery and ordinary cooking purposes daily. 
The town, before hostilities, was dependent on the 
farmers and well-to-do natives coming to market with 
waggon-loads of wood from the distant bushveld, who 


be undertaken compatibly with the performance of their allotted duties. 
This, apparently, was not deemed sufficient remuneration; and were we 
calculating the earnings of these gentlemen in the normal condition of 
Pretoria and its surroundings, we should have no hesitation in pronounc- 
ing it totally inadequate in amount. This, however, is not a time of an 
ordinary character, but one which demands, and which has already 
secured, sacrifices of a most unusual kind from men of all ranks, grades, 
professions, and business occupations ; and taking these facts into con- 
sideration, we are bound to consider that it is but fair for the doctors 
who must admit their being as one with us, as citizens of Pretoria, and 
supporters of the British interests there to offer for the benefit of the 
defenders of the town the services of their skilled powers. The real 
casus belli is simply this, that when the news of the disaster to the 94th 
Regiment arrived, and it was necessary that medical aid should be at once 
forwarded and without delay, a local member of that profession was for- 
warded to the scene, and his services secured on special terms ; but at 
this time martial law had not been declared Pretoria was not considered 
in a state of siege and the position of the surgeon sent to Bronkhorst 
Spruit is not an analogous one to that now held in camp by his profes- 
sional brethren. Serious difficulty, unlimited work, and personal dan- 
ger of no mean character, all may be said to surround this gentleman; 
and taking these facts into consideration, we fail to perceive that his 
payment is any precedent upon which claims can be founded. We have 
too much respect for the medical profession generally to say one word 
against its members, but we must be permitted to think that the action 
taken by the civil doctors is misguided, and feel sure that a short reflec- 
tion 011 their part will convince them of the propriety of making a sacri- 
fice of their skill for the benefit of those assembled beneath the protec- 
tion of her Majesty's forces. They have seen, as well as we have, 
members of equally learned professions, both law and divinity, to say 
nothing of persons holding high civil appointments, working like slaves 
at duties fit only for a Kafir labourer, and receiving no remuneration 
whatever ; and with these examples before their eyes, we have too great 
confidence in the heads as well as the hearts of these gentlemen to be- 
lieve that we shall really be called to put upon the record of our belea- 
guerment such an unpleasant incident as A DOCTOR'S STRIKE ! " 


then returned to their farms with articles purchased CHAP. 
at the stores by the proceeds of the sale. It being - 
the warm season, there was probably less in hand 
than at other times, though but a hand-to-mouth sort 
of supply was generally kept. 

In order to obtain fuel, and yet not interfere with 
or destroy the trees about the town, sad havoc had 
to be committed over a pretty bit of country in 
the neighbourhood, beyond Fort Tully, where the 
Fontein stream the source of the town water- 
supply wound its way between high hills, its banks 
clothed with underwood and small trees. 

It was certainly a picturesque scene when the com- 
pany of woodcutters were employed, scattered about, 
their rifles piled close at hand, the sound of their 
axes reverberating in the valley, and the ox-waggons 
moving to and fro, with much noise, carrying away the 
felled wood ; or, later on, the quieter tableau, when 
the men would be collected into small groups, shelter- 
ing themselves under the trees from the fierce mid- 
day sun, sitting, eating their meal or enjoying their 
pipes, w r hile the smoke from their cooking-fires would 
gently curl upwards, giving an air of a pleasant 
picnic to the whole scene. But only so in appear- 
ance ; for, to the workers, the labour was hard, the 
axe an unaccustomed tool, the heat often intense, 
with thunderstorms drenching; to the skin. 

Iii anticipation of the period of the year when nutong 
grazing would be getting more deficient, and difficulty tured. 
be experienced in keeping cattle alive, it was con- 

164 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, sidered prudent to manufacture and lay in a stock 
of biltong, 1 to meet the requirements of a lengthened 
investment. Accordingly, a hut in the middle of the 
camp ground, which had formerly been part of the 
camp hospital, was devoted to the purpose, and some 
natives being placed under the superintendence of a 
gentleman " learned in the law," the manufacture 
progressed satisfactorily for a time ; the roof of the 
hut, to which strips of the meat were hung, much as 
herrings in the curing process, being seen to be 
gradually caving in from the weight attached to its 
rafters. But soon the Commissariat officials dis- 
covered, to their dismay, that the quantity forth- 
coming could not be made to tally with the number 
of quarters of beef handed over, even though large 
deduction was made for loss by drying. A formal 
inquiry followed, but no other conclusion could be 
formed than that the wily native had somehow proved 
too much for the advocate's vigilance. 


Manure- Ihe manufacture of cow-dung fuel, with the view 

t re of . ..... 

fuel, oi supplementing, or, should necessity arise, taking 
the place of wood, was another industry carried on 
in the vicinity of the camp, ably directed by Mr 
Mundt, a farmer who had resided about six miles out, 
but had come in for protection. The dung was 
collected from the cattle-kraals and transport-laagers, 
and with the aid of a wooden mould as used in brick- 
making, and water, was turned into fuel-bricks, or 
cakes, as they were usually called. These were 

1 Dried meat. 


then placed to bake in the sun, care being taken to CHAP. 

& . in. 

cover them in case of wet weather ; and in a few 

days, when sufficiently hard, were stacked under 
shelter. The natives seemed to take great interest 
in, and to work con amove at, this employment. 

A month had elapsed without any communication Message 
from Sir George Colley, when, on the 21st January, a George 
civilian brought in a message for the Administrator, 
which gladdened the hearts of the troops and all loyal 
people. This message, already three weeks old, the 
first and only one received from outside the Transvaal 
during the investment, had been despatched from 
Natal to East London by sea the telegraph line 
across country being broken and thence by telegraph 
to Kimberley. There the services of Mr Dacomb 
being engaged, that gentleman set out on the 5th 
January, and after an adventurous ride of seventeen 
days, during which he successfully eluded the Boer 
patrols, reached the district north of Pretoria, and, 
with the aid of native guides, managed to pass un- 
observed through the enemy's line on the Magalies- 
berg range, and enter the town on foot. 

Sir George Colley, after enumerating the reinforce- 
ments of different arms under orders from England 
and India, is said to have intimated that a separate 
column might perhaps be organised to proceed to 
the Transvaal by way of the Diamond Fields, but 
that he himself should lead a column from Natal, 
which would reach Standerton on the 21st January 
- the day the message arrived Colonel Bellairs 

166 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, being requested to cause diversions to be made from 
in. 3 . 


Advantage was taken of Mr Dacomb's welcome 
arrival to send him back with despatches a couple of 
days later by the same route. His return journey 
was successfully accomplished in the same daring 
manner, and by this means the imperial Government 
was fully informed of all that had taken place in the 
Transvaal up to the date of his leaving Pretoria 23d 
January. Mr Dacomb well earned the cheque for 
350, which he was said to have received for his 
services. Some of the Pretoria merchants and in- 
habitants also arranged with him to carry messages 
for them. His anxiety to secure further commissions 
in this way may have induced him to attempt to delay 
his departure for another day, as it was rumoured that 
he received a hint from the officer commanding the 
troops that unless he cleared out of the place quickly, 
in accordance with his instructions and the arrange- 
ments made for him, he, Colonel Bellairs, might be 
under the disagreeable necessity of sending him before 
a drumhead court-martial, and despatching another man 
in his place, delay as calculated to afford information 
to the enemy being dangerous to the undertaking. 

Mr Dacomb reached Kimberley again in about 
seventeen days ; but it was only in the early part 
of March, by which time the peace negotiations were 
in progress, that the official despatches forwarded by 
him arrived in England. 1 The English public re- 

1 Published, will) others connected with South Africa, in the Blue- 
book presented to Parliament April 1881. 


mained without reliable intelligence from inside Pre- CHAP. 

toria. Some meagre accounts were certainly given - 

in the English papers, purporting to emanate from 
that place ; but, as given, the occurrences referred 
to were invariably incorrect, and more or less un- 
recognisable. The garrison was also greatly over- 
estimated, as many as 2000 fighting men being 
spoken of, with 2000 horses available to mount 
them. 1 

We have seen a return of the garrison, dated the Effectives 
last week of hostilities, showing the number of effec- 
tives at that period. This would differ but little 
from that at the commencement of the investment, 
as if, during the later time, there were more men in 
hospital there were fewer in prison, many sentences 

1 Even the author of ' A Narrative of the Boer War ' appears to 
have been led astray, as he computes " the total number of effective 
lighting men " at " about 2000 in all " ; and owing to this erroneous 
estimate, he is, perhaps naturally enough, disposed to give scant praise 
to the defenders. Mr Carter allows, though, that " in Pretoria there 
was a doubtful element, as I have already said, as dangerous to our 
arms as much feared, at all events as was the dynamite by the 
Boers. Many instances are on record of one brother carrying a rifle in 
this city whilst the other brother had to do his best to obtain its sur- 
render. It was perhaps this danger in the midst of the defenders 
which, to a certain extent, is accoimtable for the manner in which the 
defence of the capital was conducted, and offensive movements with 
inoffensive results to the enemy carried out." Were it not that the 
latter conclusion was, no doubt, grounded on the supposition that the 
information he had received was correct, that the strength of the gar- 
rison was nearly double that which it actually was, one would feel 
tempted to inquire, what more could have been done in the defence of 
the place than was successfully undertaken, in the circumstances in 
which the defenders were placed, and with the means at their disposal. 
The town was certainly not left wholly defenceless, as implied else- 
where in Mr Carter's account. 

168 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, having been remitted in the interval. The only de- 

ductions from the total present are on account of 

men actually then in hospital or prison. All others 
are entered as effective duty men. The number of 
the latter category horse and foot is given as 
follows : 

Infantry ...... 82 

Pretoria Carbineers . . . . 84 

Nourse's Horse (Europeans) . . 48 


For this mounted force there were, then, but 198 
horses left ; but, of course, action and disease had 
considerably reduced their number. 

Then of infantry there were 
Foot Regulars 

Royal Engineers . . . . 41 

R. S. Fusiliers 389 

94th Regiment . . . . 78 


Volunteers, Pretoria Rifles . . . 366 
There were also the division of two arms Roval 

o / 


The mounted volunteers were a thoroughly reliable 
body of men, superior for the kind of work required 
of them to the mounted infantry. The same depend- 
ence could not, as already hinted, be placed on the 
foot volunteers. 

cation witii During the investment communication was, with 
places. an occasional misadventure, successfully carried on 


between headquarters at Pretoria and the forts at CHAP. 
Rustenburg and Marabastadt, by means of natives. 
Despatches were also similarly sent to Natal and 
England by way of Zeerust and Kimberley, which 
town they reached in three or four weeks. Some 
messages were even sent vid the Portuguese settle- 
ment at Delagoa Bay. A triplicate message sent to 
Potchefstroom, dated 22d December, only reached 
about four weeks later ; after which, though repeated 
attempts were made, both by white and black men, 
no one was able to penetrate through the Boer lines 
there. All the forts were ordered to hold out to the 
last extremity. 1 

Immense difficulty was likewise experienced in 
getting through the enemy's network of patrols 
around Standerton and towards Natal. Owing to 
the Boer laagers being kept at great distances from 

1 " Officer Commanding, Potchefstroom. 

"Your report of 17th received. 94th from Lydenburg have been cut 
off. Hold out, but do not take the field with so small a force. At last, 
should no assistance reach in time, render guns and arms useless. 

"AY. B. 

" December 22, 1880, 6 P.M." 

The above was again sent December 28, 1880, with the following 
addition : " Reinforcements are coming from Natal." Also copy of 
district order paragraph 3, December 28, 1880, about flags of truce. 

The above, dated December, 22, 1880, was again sent with the same 
addition as was sent on December 28, 1880, on January 1, 1881. 

" Officer Commanding, Potchefstroom. 

" 1st January. Rebels have taken large (quantities of clothing from 
94th. This may be used for purposes of surprise. Exercise great 
caution in identifying armed bodies in our uniform before allowing 
approach. Reinforcements coming from Natal. Mrs Thornhill well. 
All inhabitants in Pretoria withdrawn into camp. W. B." 

See also Blue-book (c. 2866), April 1881, pp. 158-160. 

170 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Pretoria, it was comparatively easy for messengers 
thence to be passed through their extended lines in 
that quarter ; and, when once in districts inhabited 
by natives more or less favourably inclined to the 
British, to obtain supplies of food and be passed on 
with hints how best' to avoid patrols to their des- 
tination. Towards Standerton and Natal, however, 
the native kraals were very scarce, and their inhabi- 
tants being overawed or siding with the Boers, it 
became no easy matter to escape observation. The 
native messengers sent in that direction had to take 
with them as much scoff 1 biscuit and biltong in this 
case as they could conveniently carry, and avoid 
meeting any one on the road. For this purpose they 
might have to make great detours, and remain hidden 
for days, watching their opportunities to get through. 
In several instances the men returned, even after 
sighting Standerton, to give an account of their 
failure to pass in. Others were not again heard of; 
but one, a Zulu, at all events succeeded as will be 
seen in the account given further on of the defence 
of Standerton in getting in on the 29th January, 
and afterwards went on, through great risk and 
clanger, to Natal, where he was able to hand over the 
papers he was charged with to Sir George Colley. 

Various were the dodges resorted to for hiding the 
papers sent in this way, and lessening the chances of 
their discovery ; but the most successful was that of 
the hollowed-out stick detailed in another chapter 
as, should the native be in danger of being made 

1 Food, generally mealies. 


a prisoner, and afraid of becoming compromised, CHAP. 
he could drop the stick in the grass, or other favour- 
able spot, and trust to be able to recover it after- 
wards. Clothes were frequently burnt by the enemy, 
to prevent the possibility of concealed messages being 
carried further. Photography was brought into play, 
to make microscopic copies of despatches, orders, &c. ; 
and Mr Gros, the excellent photographer of Pretoria, 
a Swiss, was requisitioned for the purpose in the in- 
tervals of his armed duties. 

On the 29th January Colonel Bellairs thus summed The situa- 
tion on 

up the situation in an order of the day : 29th Janu- 


" Six weeks have elapsed since the commencement of hos- 
tilities, and during that period the various military posts oc- 
cupied I)}* her Majesty's forces in the Transvaal have been 
invested and communication cut off by the enemy. 

" Yet, notwithstanding that their force largely preponderates 
over ours, and consists of well-mounted and armed Boers, 
having a perfect knowledge of the country, only once has any 
success been obtained by it, and that only from circumstances 
which have been before explained and remarked upon. 

" All the forts hold out, and every attack has been beaten 
oft' so successfully, indeed, that the enemy would now appear 
to shrink from any direct assault, and to have adopted the 
tactics of sitting down in the hope of starving the garrisons 
into surrendering. 

" Accounts, direct and indirect, bear testimony to the fore- 
sight, caution, and ability exhibited by the commanders, 
viz., lit. Lt.-Colonel Winsloe, 2-21st Foot, and Major Thorn- 
hill, R.A., at Potchefstroom ; Captain Auchinleck, 2-21st 
Foot, at Poistenburg, and Captain Brook and 2d Lt. Long, 
94th Foot, at Marabastadt and Lydenburg and the admirable 
defence made by all under their command. 




Attack on 



"Around Pretoria, the successful attacks on the enemy's 
positions have resulted in a probable rebel loss of 65 or more 

" At Potchefstroom there would appear to have been fre- 
quent and severe fighting, with uniform heavy loss to the 
rebels, over 100 killed. 

" The small garrisons of Rustenburg and Lydenburg have 
repelled the attacks of the rebels, with slight loss to them- 
selves, and about 10 of the enemy killed. 

" There has been no certain information regarding the forts 
at Wesselstroom l and Standerton, beyond that the rebels have 
been similarly driven off." 

The estimate formed at this time of the enemy's 
losses around Pretoria was, no doubt, far too high ; 
and, for the reason already given, it is probable that 
many Boers were erroneously reported as killed. 2 

During one of the reconnaissances and skir- 
mishes with the enemy on the 23d January, under 
the command of Captain Sanctuary, in the direction 
of the Wonderboom Poort, Captain Anderson, of the 
Pretoria Carbineers, received a ball through one of 
his legs, which disabled him for some weeks. 

On the 4th February, on the strength of native 
information, giving the position of a few waggons said 
to be laagered behind the hill at Derde Poort, about 
eight miles distant, Colonel Bellairs determined to 
endeavour to surprise the post and blow up the wag- 
gons. A mounted party with explosives was sent 
forward early in the dark, while Lieut.-Colonel Gildea, 
with a supporting body, rested on the parallel range 

1 Sometimes called Wakkerstroom. 2 See ante, p. 137. 


of hill opposite. Colonel Bellairs and his aide-de- CHAP. 

. . in. 

camp, with Mr Lagden, Private Secretary to the 

Administrator, went out later at four o'clock in- 
tending to join Lieut. -Colonel Gildea ; but so dark was 
it, that though they were in the valley between the 
attacking and supporting parties, they failed to dis- 
cover the latter until dawn came on. Beyond the 
surprise and rapid flight of a small Boer picket and 
interchange, of some shots, the affair had no result. 
The laager had no existence. Either the intelligence 
given by the native who had come in was false, or the 
waggons had been moved elsewhere. 

On the 7th February a messenger arrived from News of 

J . Sir George 

Heidelberg, under a flag of truce, bearing a letter coiiey's 

first re- 

from Vice-President Kruger to the Administrator, verse - 
requesting an exchange of prisoners. This referred to 
Major Clarke, Captain Raaf, &c., captured at Potchef- 
stroom, on the one side, and the Boers taken at Zwart 
Kopje on the other. An answer was returned to the 
effect that the proposal could not be entertained. 1 
The messenger also brought with him copies of the 
latest Boer Government ' Gazette,' which was found 
to contain two short despatches, written in a plain 
diffident style, from Commandant-General Joubert to 
Vice -President Kruger and Assistant Commandant- 
General P. A. Cronje, announcing his victory of the 
28th January. The excitement was great until the 
' Gazette ' had been fully translated; succeeded, as was 
natural, by some depression, as the truth of the story 

1 See Appendix X*. 

174 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, became painfully impressed upon those most capable 
of judging of its credibility. 

Thus the hopes of speedy relief which, entertained 
by many, had been strengthened by the receipt on 
the 21st January of Sir George Colley's message, sent 
three weeks before, that reinforcements were on their 
way, were in great measure dispelled. It became 
more evident that, as had been early surmised by 
Colonel Bellairs, the advance of Sir George Colley 
would have to be made under great difficulties 
every step forward being opposed, and delay en- 
suing through the necessity for waiting for cavalry 
reinforcements to come up. 1 
The "Sister There were, though, still some of the class whom no 

Annes. " . 

experience gained will teach to forecaste the future 
who continued anxiously to expect Sir George Colley 
to make his appearance soon ; who, listening to wild 
reports brought in by natives, really believed that his 
advance-guard must be close at hand. These were 
the " Sister Annes," who would perch themselves on 
the hill-tops overlooking the road from Heidelberg, 
and would search long and wistfully through their 
glasses in the vain endeavour to discover the waggons 
or tents of the advancing relieving army. 
Delusive Sometimes it would happen that even the look-out 
from the men at the hill-forts would become infected with this 
stations, delusive impression, and believing they actually saw 
what some wished they should discover, they would, 
at one time, send down a report of a large encampment 
observed in the distance; and at another, of hundreds 

1 See ante, note, p. 158. 


of waggons outspanned by the roadside miles away CHAP. 
all illusions, and perhaps turning out to have arisen 
from the sun shining on, and bringing more promi- 
nently into view, numerous white stones or rocks 
cropping out of the ground. 

Similarly, through failure to estimate accurately Native 

, . . J reports. 

the impediments in the way, and over-anxiety for 
long-expected relief, many caused mischief by giving 
too ready credence to the numerous reports, generally 
of a nature to please us, brought in by the natives. 
The tales these men told were duly translated and 
entered in, what came to be laughingly designated 
by unbelievers as, the " Book of Lies." 

Some of the natives would give circumstantial 
descriptions of actions fought at Potchefstroom, Stan- 
derton, and elsewhere, in which the Boers were al- 
ways worsted. Others had met with natives return- 
ing from the Diamond Fields, who had seen troops, 
and even marched alongside them, on the road be- 
tween Kimberley and Potchefstroom. We heard of 
cavalry coming from the same direction horsemen 
with swarthy faces and long black hair. Surely, it 
was said, this must be an Indian regiment of native 
cavalry ? Sir George Colley had intimated that some 
of the reinforcements might be sent by way of Kim- 
berley ; and here was the advance-guard! Then 
came a report of the relief of Potchefstroom, and the 
departure of the rooi baatjes 1 from the town, with 
band playing at their head. 

1 Redcoats. 

176 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. The Civil Intelligence Branch certainly was not very 
successful in obtaining reliable information ; and the 
military officers soon perceived that the reports de- 
rived from this source the natives could not be 
depended upon. Sometimes these men would be 
purposely sent in to mislead us ; sometimes they 
would suit their communications to what they con- 
jectured would please us, often waiting for some lead- 
ing question to be put to them, to reply accordingly ; 
and at other times they would relate, with an air of 
fact, what amounted to little more than the gossip, or 
" travellers' tales," they had heard over their camp- 
fires. When sent in, two or three together, by a 
chief, they were found to be trustworthy ; but the 
chiefs and their tribes were, with the exception of 
those in the neighbourhood of Rustenburg, located 
in distant parts, away from where hostilities were 
being carried on. 

Several of the natives, however, .who thus came in 
to volunteer information, performed their part badly, 
and being suspected, were promptly lodged in the 
jail, where their services were utilised as scavengers. 

Tiu-sdioo Midway between the Daas Poort and Wonder- 
!iy l . u boom Poort was a farmhouse, in which Mr Schoe- 
nian, a Commandant-General of the former Republic, 
resided, with his daughter. He was an old man, 
crippled with rheumatism ; but as his house was occa- 
sionally visited by patrols from both sides, and one of 
his sons Hendrick Schoeman was commanding the 
Boer troops round Pretoria, it was considered unde- 


sirable that he should remain there, and he was ac- CHAP. 
cordingly given the option of coming into Pretoria or 
going out to a Boer laager. He chose the former 
course, and was brought in. 

On the 8th February, the Boer General, Mr Hen- 
drick Schoeman, sent in a messenger, from the Won- 
derboom Poort, with a letter for the Hon. P. Marais, 
member of the Executive Council, asking to be al- 
lowed to meet that gentleman, with a view to de- 
vising means for preventing further bloodshed. Sanc- 
tion being given, and for him to see his brother and 
sister, he was, the following morning, brought into 
camp blindfolded, and taken inside a small hut. The 
conversation which ensued between him and Mr Marais 
only led to a suggestion on his part, that a republic, 
under the protectorate of England, should form the 
basis of a treaty. There being no authority to enter- 
tain any such proposal, the matter dropped. Mr 
Schoeman spoke very confidently of the Boer pros- 
pects, and the successes they had met with ; said that 
it was expected the Orange Free State, and the Dutch 
party in the Cape Colony, would soon join them ; and, 
finally, declared that two cannon were close at hand. 
He expressed a wish to see Colonel Bellairs ; but that 
officer declined, unless Mr Schoeman would under- 
take, on leaving, to bring about an unconditional 
surrender of those in arms. 

Great success attended the efforts made both in Amuse- 
the Headquarter Camp and the Convent Redoubt vided! 1>r 


178 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, to provide different kinds of amusements to suit all 

classes, and so drive away any tendency to gloom 

which, under such strange and novel circumstances, 
might be felt by many. As soon as everything be- 
came more settled, and the routine of daily duty 
better understood or found less irksome, various 
recreations began to be practised : athletic sports, 
cricket and polo matches were arranged ; the band 
and pipers of the Royal Scots Fusiliers frequently 
enlivened the evening promenade, and now and 
then open-air concerts or theatrical performances 
were given ; the Worshipful Master assembled his 
brother Masons at their hall in the town, and the 
Good Templars followed suit with a meeting in theirs ; 
St Patrick's Day was kept, the festival being duly 
celebrated by a convivial meeting of Irishmen ; the 
Germans had a "banquet" in honour of their Em- 
peror's birthday. 

concerts. "Wooden stages were erected for concerts and perfor- 
mances on the Convent and Garrison Squares. The 
Convent Redoubt was the first to give an entertain- 
ment, on the eve of the new year. A piano was bor- 
rowed, and the Orpheus Glee Society of Pretoria gave 
their services. After glees, solos, and instrumental 
music, Major Le Mesurier introduced the National 
Anthem, with a stirring appeal to the audience that 
the time having arrived for all loyal people to rally 
round the throne, they should now prove the love 
and admiration they felt for their Queen by joining, 
heart and soul, in singing the anthem. At the con- 
clusion three hearty cheers were given for her Majesty. 


The Headquarter Camp was not to be outdone by CHAP. 
the Convent Redoubt ; so several energetic caterers 
for the diversion of the public Lieutenant Hon. A. 
Hardinge, Captain Churchhill, and others, who earned 
the hearty thanks of the whole community set to 
work to engage all the musical and histrionic talent 
available, and, after a rehearsal, gave a first perform- 
ance on the 1st February, followed, at intervals, by 
three or four more of varied entertainment. Besides 
the Orpheus Glee Society, who sang most harmoniously 
on one night, several amateur ladies and gentlemen 
gave their services as vocalists or instrumentalists ; 
the charming songs and music so pleasingly rendered 
by them adding greatly to the general enjoyment. 
Agreeable recollections of both songs and singers 
even now haunt us. We call to mind " The Mid- 
shipmite," sung with much pathos by D. A. Com.- 
General "Wyoii ; " The Gallants of England," con 
spirituoso by Mr Du-Val ; the melodious duet, " The 
moon has raised her lamp above," by Captain Tew 
and Mr Wyon ; Captain Churchhill in his humorous 
version of the " topical " song, " A quiet sort of way"; 
the Misses Van Leenhof in their pretty duets; Cor- 
poral and Miss Slavin in a Scotch duet ; and Sergeant 
Byrne and Corporal Barnett in comic singing, as good 
as most professionals. 

The amateur acting was such as fully justified the Theatri- 
favourable reception it met with. " The Area Belle" 
was capitally given. It may be pleasing to some, 
who have reminiscences of this period in Pretoria, to 
have their memories refreshed as to the cast on these 

180 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, occasions : Sergeant Byrne as Pitcher ; Corporal Hill 
- as Tosser ; Private Slavin as Walker Chalks ; Private 

West as Mrs Croker ; and Corporal Barnett as Penel- 
ope. The get-up of Private West was so good as to 
deceive most people, until accident somewhat dis- 
arranged her wig. " Box and Cox," on another even- 
ing, created roars of laughter Mr Danford, Lieut. 
Hon. A. Hardinge, and Corporal Barnett (Mrs Bouncer) 
taking the parts. The comic piece, " Turn him out," 
was likewise loudly applauded : Sergeant Byrne as 
Nicodemus Nobbs ; Mr Danford as Moke ; Corporal 
Hill as JRoseleaf ; Corporal Barnett as Mrs Moke ; 
and Private West as Susan, all the characters ex- 
cellently personated. 
Christy But the final performance, on the 21st March, given 


by the Christy Minstrels Captains C- - and T , 

Messrs T , D , Fry, D , and others was 

probably the most appreciated of all. The get-up 
of the dark gentlemen was admirable, and the way in 
which they went through their parts and sang their 
solos and choruses would have filled " a house " any- 
where. Messrs Fry and T - were the "leading" men. 
The former had had long experience, and been recently 
associated with Mr Du-Val in his "varieties" entertain- 
ments given in the different towns of South Africa : 
but the latter, though only an amateur, proved him- 
self equally gifted in the droll-farcical " business," and, 
in despite of several inches over six feet in height, to 
excel " on the light fantastic toe." The marvellous 
rapid utterance in his choruses, displaying great 
power of memory, was a feature not often met with. 


A very pretty musical and slightly dramatic per- CHAP. 
formance was given, towards the close of the invest- 


men't, by the Loretto Convent schoolgirls, with the convent 


object of raising a fund for improving the cemetery. 
No charge was made, but a collection at the end was 
liberally responded to by a large audience. The open- 
ing scene displayed little dots of only three years, 
singing merrily at " Pussy-cat's tea-party," all look- 
ing rosy and hearty, and showing that the state of 
siege had hitherto had only a beneficial influence 
with them. Then followed numerous quartet, duet, 
and solo performances on the piano, with pupils up 
to eighteen ; and afterwards a short operetta, The 
songs, " From fair Savoy I come," and " Buy a broom," 
still linger in our ears ; and we seem to see again the 
little Prosch, with bewitching charm of eye and man- 
ner, beseeching the audience to purchase her stock- 

In all these performances the band of the Royal Fusilier 
Scots Fusiliers, as the orchestra, took a prominent 
part, under the direction of their accomplished band- 
master, Mr Daniels. A favourite, sweetly plaintive 
air, reported to have been sung as a lullaby by the 
Boer women when trekking in former troublous times, 

o * 

and since to have been suggested as the National National 

H f 

Anthem of the South African Republic, was often the south 
played with great effect. A kind and talented musi- Republic, 
cal friend has from memory furnished us with the 
following setting : 


Cantabile. . i 

-^ . . -~i I *" J I i i *H [^ j j 

feS?3= giii=@S^ii 






-J^-N-js -v- -^ J -!--. 

-^ -, --. --j- TT - fi -, p -r^-- -p=r- 

^ ^ \ is * ii 1 

^r 2-s,. . 


I ff \ \ i I I f v 


i L ^5 i i P * * * i * ' 

k. k. 

I i M s fc I s k U ' I i 
J.--* J . j - >- > _-'.i?_f i_ j_u_4 

. *_ _ A*.*i.A 4 AA*A ^* ^ 


-?-* ^ 

: F=F : 



HS --* 

__ y ^_^__J_J_ [ JS 

-P * ^~ 

K > 

: G) JV 1 ** 

L^ 1 - ^ 9 . 



A certain proportion of the volunteers from the CHAP. 

. in. 

Convent and Jail Laagers were allowed to attend the 

Headquarter Camp entertainments, but always equipped 
with their arms, ready for action. It formed a curious, 
weird sort of picture, looking from the stage on the 
mass of men, women, and children, sitting on benches, 
surrounded at the back and sides by a deep body of 
standing figures, conspicuous with rifles and bando- 
liers, and a background of tents and other martial 
appearances, with the sentinels' challenges heard every 
now and then, distant and near, the upturned faces 
at one moment dark from passing cloud, and the next 
whitened by the flood of soft light poured down by a 
South African moon. 

Some casualties happened, now and again, with the Losses in 


patrols and reconnoitring parties ; but it was in the on the 


attacks of which there were three, 6th and 16th positions. 
January, and 12th February on the Boer positions, 
that the greatest loss was experienced. This, of 
course, was only what might be expected, since the 
defenders of rugged and naturally strong positions 
have an enormous advantage over the assailants, who, 

O ' * 

besides, in this case, were subjected to flank attack, 
from the reinforcements coming up from the adjoin- 
ing laagers on either side. 

The value of such attacks on distant strongholds, 
with the certainty, even though successful in tem- 
porarily wresting them from the enemy, of losing 
many men and those of the most reliable sort, who 
might be wanted later on was always questionable ; 

184 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, but the purposelessness and inutility of these encounters 
became more apparent, when it was recognised by 
all but a hot-headed few, incapable of correctly fore- 
casting the military situation, or else willing to risk 
reverse in an anxiety to force events that the re- 
sistance the Boers were capable of offering would be 
such as to stop Sir George Colley's advance, until 
reinforcements could reach him from England ; and 
that the General had been over-sanguine in notifying 
that he would reach Standerton by the 21st January. 1 
Diversions of such a nature on the approach of a 
relieving force in accordance with a desire under- 
stood to have been expressed by Sir George Colley, 
when leaving Pietermaritzburg for the frontier would 
have served an intelligible object ; but when it be- 
came plain after the 7th February, on receipt of 
the news of Sir George Colley's check on the 28th 
January, that no relief force could be near, it would 
have been prudent to have refrained from uselessly 
engaging the garrison in more resultless actions, 
causing additional losses to the already, in truth, 
small enough reliable body of men left to cope with 
future possible emergencies, and thus avoid the chance 
of adding another to the frequent disasters referred 

1 See ante, Colonel Bellairs's remarks of Jan. 17, pp. 157, 158. Lieut. - 
Oolunel (Jildea also, in his report on the Elandsfontein fight, showed 
how greatly he was impressed with the impracticability of achieving any 
decided success against the Boers without a sufficient force of cavalry. 
I Te said : " The Boers in this instance did not keep up their character for 
1 icing good shots, though they excelled any previous performance of 
theirs I have seen in their rapidity of movement and their wonderful 
power of taking cover; and I am more convinced than ever that no real 
victory will ever be gained over them without a strong force of cavalrv." 


to in a previous note 1 recently incurred, or even CHAP. 
then taking place, to British arms in South Africa. i 

The foregoing reflections are partially illustrated in 
the failure of an attack on the Eed House Laager, on 
the 12th February undertaken, it was afterwards 
whispered, in deference to the expressed opinion of 
the Administrator, the officer commanding the troops 
considering that the time for making such an attack 
or diversion, in the absence of the approach of a 
relief column, had not arrived, and would serve no 

The enemy's positions had been already attacked to Attack of 

, . the 12th 

the east and to the west, columns having marched ten February. 
or eleven miles out for the purpose, with no incon- 
siderable risk attaching to their return journey by 
which time the enemy had concentrated their forces. 
As an attack was to be adventured, the question arose, 
in what quarter? Colonel Bellairs was of opinion 
that a front attack of the "Wonderboom position, to 
the north, would probably entail the loss of a hundred 
or more men ; and even if taken, it would at the 
end of the day have to be evacuated, when it could 
again be occupied by the enemy. If that position 
was to be attacked, he was in favour of a force being 
sent round by the Derde Poort, to operate to the 
rear, while an attack in front was threatened or pro- 
gressing. Officers commanding mounted corps con- 
sidered and were no doubt right that their horses 
were not in a condition to perform the work which an 

1 See ante, p. 3. 

186 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, expedition in that direction would necessitate, it being 
calculated that, with the scouting required, fifty to 
sixty miles would have to be travelled over. The 
experiences gained, about this same period, on the 
Natal border, in the attempts made by Sir George 
Colley to thrust back the Boer invasion of the colony, 
would seem to show that, had a front attack been 
made on the Wonderboom, it would not unlikely 
have resulted in a similar reverse to that encountered 
at Laing's Nek on the 28th January, the former posi- 
tion being even stronger than the latter ; and had a 
force been sent round to operate to the rear, another 
unfortunate action might possibly have had to be 
fought, like that of Ingogo on the 8th February. 

Attention was then turned to the Red House Laager, 
about nine miles to the south, off the Heidelberg road, 
as offering the fewest obstacles to success. The ground 
being known to Lieut. -Colonel Gildea, from his pre- 
vious skirmish there on the 29th December, 1 that 
officer was intrusted with the arrangements for the 
projected attack. 

trength of The column sent out on this occasion consisted of 
the two field-guns, R.A., a small detachment of the 
Royal Engineers for explosive purposes, two com- 
panies of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and two troops 
of the Pretoria Carbineers and Nourse's Horse ; with 
a Krupp 4 -pounder gun, two companies of the Pre- 
toria Rifles, and a few mounted infantry, to occupy 
reserve positions on the road. They moved off soon 
after 2 A.M., advancing under cover of night. The 

1 See ante, p. 120. 


direction in which the column was to act was kept CHAP. 

secret until the last, and the impression given that 

another would be taken. There can be little doubt, 
though as the result showed the enemy had early 
notice of its approach. But, let alone the possibility 
that information might have been conveyed by native 
agency, the noise unavoidably made by the guns and 
mule-waggons rolling along the road would sufficiently 
account for the enemy having had timely warning, 
and being prepared accordingly. 

The Carbineers, under Captain Sanctuary, acting; as Disposition 

. for attack. 

an advance-guard, pushed forward to the hill beyond 
the Six Mile Spruit. The Pretoria Rifles, under Major 
Le Mesurier, R.E., with the Krupp gun, were left on a 
hill to the left of the road overlooking the spruit, 
with an advanced party, to hold the houses at the 
drift ; while Lieutenant Collings, with a detachment 
of mounted Fusiliers, occupied a hill on the right of 
the road, commanding the spruit and some dense bush 
on the opposite bank. 

All being reported well from the front, the main 
body, Noursc's Horse, under Captain Sampson ; the 
two 9-poimder guns, under Lieutenant Hare ; the 
detachment Royal Engineers, under Lieutenant Com- 
meline ; and the Fusiliers, under Captain Dunn, 
then went over the stream and across country, until 
they had ascended the position held by the Carbineers. 
Here Lieutenant Stanuell was detached, to remain 
with 50 of the Fusiliers, and 25 of Nourse's Horse 
sent to seize some thick bush to the right, facing the 
Red House. Then Captain Sanctuary was instructed 


188 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, to endeavour to "rush" a large stone cattle-kraal, 
- south of, and about a thousand yards from the Eed 

House, which it commanded. Lieut. -Colonel Gildea 
followed, in support of this movement, with the main 
column, now reduced to the two field-guns, 20 of the 
Eoyal Engineers, 125 of the Fusiliers, and 25 of 
Nourse's Horse, until, reaching a good position on 
a hill with a few thorn-trees about it, 1500 yards 
from the kraal, and about the same distance from 
the Eed House, now lying to the right, he halted, 
and the infantry formed up on two faces, towards the 
Eed House and kraal. 

The attack It was now light. The enemy, moreover, were 
already in occupation of the kraal, and fully prepared 
to meet the impending attack. The Carbineers, on 
coming within short range, were received with vol- 
leys, and beaten back, Captain Sanctuary and several 
others falling. Eetiring, and forming a concave line 
behind some sheltered rises of ground, their right 
resting on the main body and their left nearer to 
the kraal, the Carbineers continued to return the 
enemy's fire. The guns were brought into action, 
and some shells pitching with good effect, caused the 
Boers to evacuate the kraal by its rear. Their further 
movements becoming for a time hidden by interven- 
ing ground, they were at length discovered working 
round the left flank of the Carbineers. 

Captain Sanctuary and some wounded men still 
lay in front, when, instead of attempting their re- 
moval by means of bearers, the medical officer in 
charge, no doubt through excess of zeal, notwith- 


standing the remonstrances raised by Assistant Com- CHAP. 

. in. 

missary-General Walton against the folly of taking 

the mules into the thick of the fire, removed the 
ambulance-waggon to the spot, several hundred yards 
beyond the front line. 

The Boers from the cattle-kraal having meanwhile The Car- 
galloped round the ridge and outflanked the left rear driven in. 
of the Carbineers' line, opened thence, under cover of 
some thorn-trees, a sharp fire in reverse. This move- 
ment took the Carbineers wholly by surprise ; and 
although those on the left, under Lieutenant Walker, 
made a firm stand, the centre of their line gave way, 
and galloped in, in disorder, on the guns and infantry, 
causing temporary dismay and confusion. A few of confusion 

-\T > TT 111 i i r resulting. 

JN ourse s Morse had been sent to support the left of 
the Carbineers ; but when the centre of the latter was 
broken and driven in, the Boers, by this time largely 
reinforced by others, coming up from the adjacent 
laager lying to the east, were enabled to take up fresh 
positions nearer, and then, from behind clumps of 
trees, at a distance of from 400 to 500 yards, pour 
in a flanking fire on the guns and infantry and the 
waggons below. The ambulance - waggon likewise 
became endangered and was fired upon. The Fusilier 
company was, through the disorderly retreat of the 
Carbineers, for the moment " out of hand," and officers 
engaged in rallying the men and restoring order. 

O o J O O 

Lieut. -Colonel Gildea thereupon directed that the 
detachment of the Eoyal Engineers should occupy 
some bush to the left, and thence endeavour to keep 
the enemy in check an order already anticipated and 

190 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, in process of being carried out by Lieutenant Com- 
meline before it reached him. These older soldiers, 
under their young intrepid officer, behaved with 

great coolness and resolution, and their action and 

& * 

fire at this critical moment had good effect in retard- 
ing the advance of the enemy. 1 

Lieut. -coi- Immediately after, becoming disabled by a ball 

wounded. 6 * through his thigh, Lieut. -Colonel Gildea directed 

Captain Dunn, the next senior officer, to effect a 

1 Bearing on the unsteadiness shown by some of our troops on occa- 
sions in recent wars, one who has noted instances of this evil in action 
remarks : " I attribute it wholly to the absence of a due admixture of 
old soldiers, and especially to the youth of the non-commissioned officers. 
Boys and soldiers of eighteen or twenty, or even twenty-two, are but 
boys are impressionable, and act upon impulse and not on principle. 
They are consequently ready to follow a majority, or an influential 
minority, into great danger with the utmost bravery, so long as the ex- 
citement of advance can be maintained ; but they are easily depressed by 
;i check, and are proportionably liable to panics. They act on impulse, 
and are therefore the best of soldiers so long as the impulse leads them 
in the right direction ; but unfortunately the impulse is quite as likely 
to lead them backwards as forwards ; and the non-commissioned officers 
being as much boys as the men under them, there is 110 ballast to 
' steady the ship,' no drag to put on when impulse is playing the mis- 
chief. On a weary march, in a wet dismal camp, when food and shelter 
are scarce, when bullets are flying, then it is that the old soldier proves 
valuable. It is then that the inveterate grumbler ceases grumbling, 
and shows himself a veritable Mark Tapley; while the young soldier is 
too apt to cave in, to exhibit despair, to lose all heart, and to set his 
mind upon one thing alone getting safely back again. That is my 
experience of two wars of quite different kinds." 

Reliable as our officers have proved themselves on occasions such as 
alluded to by the above writer, they are not, and cannot be, in them- 
selves alone, sufficient, on emergency, to furnish the required "ballast" 
or "drag" to prevent sudden panic or collapse. The fault does not 
indeed rest with them, but arises wholly from the causes explained 
above. What the result may be in India, in the event of another 
mutiny, it is not difficult to foresee, unless the tendency, now obser- 
vable, to keep the older soldier as a leaven in the ranks, and to retain 
non-commissioned officers to pension, is adhered to. 


withdrawal of the column, though, lying on a mule- CHAP. 

. in. 

waggon, he still continued to receive reports, and 

i i n Retreat 

give such instructions as he considered were desirable ordered. 


from time to time. 

The mule-drivers, hearing the balls whistling past Panic with 

r the mule- 

them, and seeing many of the mules being struck, waggon 

' J drivers. 

had already commenced an independent rush home- 
wards, when, fortunately, Assistant Commissary - 
General Walton who had been on the hill above 
with Lieut. -Colonel Gildea, usefully rendering assist- 
ance in restoring order was able to get in front of 
the leading waggon, and by threatening the driver 
with a revolver, stopped his headlong course. Deputy- 
Assistant Commissary-General Heygate and Conductor 
Feldshaw also rendered opportune energetic assistance 
with the rear and centre of the waggon line, which 
was thus brought to proceed at a walk in single file 
to a less exposed place. 

Fifty of the Fusiliers were then despatched to 
strengthen the party of volunteers at the drift, and 
secure the passage of the stream. The main column 
afterwards retired, the Carbineers falling back and 
covering its flanks, and Nourse's Horse its rear. It 
was now seen that the ambulance -waggon had not 
joined. A halt ensued, until it being ascertained 
that the enemy were in possession of the waggon, 
and moving it towards the Eed House, the retreat 
was continued. 

The column was met at the Six Mile Spruit by 
Colonel Bellairs, he having been informed that Lieut. - 
Colonel Gildea had been disabled. The Boers en- 

192 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, deavoured to gain the bush on their side of the 

stream, to our right of the drift ; but were prevented 

by the party, under Lieutenant Collings, previously 
posted on the hill with that object, together with 
some mounted infantrymen, brought up by Colonel 
Bellairs, who were ordered by him to occupy the near 
bank. A few shells being also fired from Major Le 
Mesurier's position, checked any intention of the 
enemy to advance further. The skirmish ceased 
between seven and eight o'clock, having lasted about 

o J o 

two hours and a half. 

Lieutenant Commeline, 011 the order to retire, 
endeavoured to lay mines on the positions vacated, 
with a view to arresting the enemy's advance ; but, 
owing; to insufficient time, was unable to effect his 

O ' 

purpose successfully. His name, as also those of 
Corporal Ferguson, E.E., and Private Kitto a civil 
engineer of the Pretoria Carbineers, were specially 
mentioned for great coolness under fire when making 
this attempt. Among others who elicited praise w T ere 
Trooper C. F. Palmer a clerk in the Surveyor- 
General's office of the Pretoria Carbineers, for his 
gallant conduct in carrying a wounded man out of 
action for a considerable distance under a hot fire ; 
and Lieutenant Walker, for the firm stand he made 
with his portion of the Carbineers on the left, thus 
materially assisting in covering the guns. 

Although only one man was killed in action, fifteen 
non-commissioned officers and men, besides Lieut.- 
Colonel Gildea and Captain Sanctuary, were wounded, 
nearly all dangerously, in the lower extremities. 


Captain Sanctuary and about half the other cases CHAP. 

k , J ni. 


Mrs Erasmus, the mother of one of the wounded 
men captured with the ambulance -waggon, being 
desirous of going to the Ked House to nurse her son, 
she was allowed to drive out in the evening with two 
other ladies Mrs Ferriera and Mrs Clarke. They 
were well treated ; and on the return of the latter, 
it being understood that the Boer Commandant was 
willing to allow the wounded men and the surgeon to Exchange 

-, . . f ,, T> -, -> -i of prison- 

be given up, it the Boer prisoners we held were re- ers. 

leased, these men were sent out unconditionally as 
the local Government did not wish to compromise 
itself by granting an exchange of prisoners with 
an ambulance-waggon for the wounded, who were 
then returned, accompanied by the surgeon. The 
captured ambulance was also employed in bring- 
ing in the wounded, but conditionally on its being 
sent back, which was accordingly done. Young 
Erasmus only lived a day or two after being 
brought in. 


Nowhere but in the Transvaal are the horses so Boer mode 

i r. of fighting. 

well trained to suit the hunting requirements 01 the 
people, or so well adapted for this kind of warfare. 
A tap on the shoulder when at full gallop suffices to 
bring the animal to a dead halt, enabling the Boer 
to dismount at the same moment, throw down his 
bridle - rein, and at once take deliberate aim with 
his rifle, or, if desired, leave his horse under cover, 
and run forward to deliver his fire from the crest of 


194 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, a hill, knowing; that on his return he will find his 
horse quietly grazing at the same spot. 

We have never had any mounted body in the field 
to approach the Boers men and horses in general 
aptitude for scouting work. Our cavalry regiments 
may be all that is fitting for acting together and 
executing a charge, but scarcely for shooting or 
scouting. Nor have either men or horses, of any 
mounted infantry we have formed, ever been trained 
intelligently for the proper duties likely to be re- 
quired of them. What kind of figure would a troop 
of cavalry or mounted infantry according to our 
recent standard offer, if the men were sent singly 
at a gallop, to dismount at a certain point, and fire 
at a mark ? How long, in comparison with the Boer, 
would each man take in dismounting, delivering his 
fire, and clearing off again, himself all the time, say, 
a mark for an enemy ? And how often in compar- 
ison would he hit the mark ? 
Mounted Mounted infantry with us hitherto have been a 

infantry. . , , , m , 

mere makeshift for the absence of cavafry. Ine 
fair riders of an infantry regiment, being few in 
number, have necessarily had to be chosen, without 
much reference to their shooting qualifications, and 
an inferior weapon placed in their hands, instead of 
the long rifle to which they had become accustomed. 
The colonel, liking to see his mounted troop do 
credit to his regiment in appearance, selects a smart 
officer for the command, and gradually the troop is 
assimilated to that of a cavalry corps, and endeavours 
to work with the same precision of movement. The 


infantry soldier, who has been habituated day by CHAP. 
day, for long periods, to march " in touch " with his 
comrades, is, as a rule, little likely to develop that 
independence, or follow that scattered rapidity of 
movement observable with the Boers, which has, in 
the late war, so often saved them from becoming a 
mark for artillery or even rifles. Some of the few 
mounted infantry in the Transvaal had had, however, 
a better training in this respect than usual, through 
having acted, under energetic officers, in an inde- 
pendent form, with small look-out parties searching 
for or in pursuit of deserters. 

Mounted infantry, as first employed in the American 
Civil War, was an intelligible idea enough the horses 
being used merely as a means of locomotion, to trans- 
fer an infantry force from one spot to another, and 
enable it to frustrate, or else make, a flank attack. 

But if a corps is wanted, and there can be no doubt HOW 


it would prove most valuable for scouting; purposes infantry 

should be 

to seize and temporarily hold advanced positions to organised. 
harass infantry and artillery to attack or make a 
feint on a flank, that is, a corps after the Boer model 
the men should be recruited as, or made thoroughly 
good independent sharpshooters, and practised horse- 
men, and the horses should be trained to meet their 
special requirements. The Boer war should at least 
have taught us this much. 

If we ever raise such a body of men, it would be 
well to take precautions that they are not suffered 
to deteriorate through any well-meant but mistaken 
efforts as over-drill and over-dress to make them 

196 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, present a more martial and showy appearance at a 
review, and win transient approbation from spectators 
at a " march past." They should not furnish generals 
and others with smart orderlies and escorts ; but give 
their whole time and attention to horsemanship and 

Convey- The defence of Pretoria is probably the only occa- 

anceof . . 11 

infantry gion upon which mule-waggons have been systemati- 

in mule- 1 J . 

waggons, cally utilised for the conveyance of infantry into and 
out of action. At Zwart Kopje, Elandsfontein, and 
Ked House, as also in making distant reconnaissances 
and forays, they were so employed. The advantages 
were great. The enemy was reached at a much 
greater distance than was otherwise possible, and 
could be surprised sometimes at daybreak before his 
reinforcements could come up. The troops went into 
action comparatively fresh, and could be kept in 
action a longer time. The retirement after the 
conclusion of the operations could be effected more 
rapidly, and the mounted troops were less distressed 
through not having to regulate their movements by 
those of infantry on foot. Without such help, the 
infantry, in this case, could not, at such a hot season, 
have traversed the distances they sometimes were re- 
quired to cover, so as to have given the necessary time 
for operations and afterwards regaining the camp the 
same day. From eighteen to twenty-five men used 'to 
be carried in each waggon, drawn by eight or ten mules. 

The clergy of the different persuasions were most 


zealous in their duties, holding numerous services, CHAP. 

visiting the hospitals and sick people in the camps, - 


and superintending their schools. services. 

The Dutch minister, the Eev. Mr Bosnian, was Dutch. 
absent ; though he was allowed to come into the lines 
for a short time in February, and then return to look 
after his outside flock at the several Boer laagers. 
The Eev. G. Weavind, Wesleyan minister, took over wesieyan 
Mr Bosnian's interior charge in addition to his own. 
This gentleman will be long pleasantly remembered, 
for the energetic but kindly way in which he performed 
camp duties as sanitary officer, in addition to his 
onerous clerical work ; assisting the Camp Quarter- 
master in arranging troublesome matters, smoothing 
over difficulties, and removing obstacles to order ; 
going his evening rounds among civilian huts and 
tents, and cheerily ordering " lights out." 

If a skirmish was known to be going on, the Eoman Roman 


Catholic Fathers would be seen endeavouring to reach 
the scene of action, and to be in time to administer 
the last rite of consolation to any requiring it on the 
ground. Bishop Jolivet was absent visiting Potchef- 
stroom ; but the Eev. Fathers de Lacy, Meyer, and 
Kenna officiated in his absence. One of the saddest 
events during the investment was the death of the 
Bishop's sister, aged only thirty-five, after a short 
illness, on the 15th January. She was the Lady 
Superior and Foundress of the Loretto Convent an Loretto 

T i Convent. 

educational establishment only started since the an- 
nexation, but which had already, under her wise and 
devoted supervision, acquired a high status for culture 

198 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, and accomplishments. No one seeing the pupils occa- 
- sionally could fail to notice the gradual improvement 
effected in their appearance and demeanour under the 
softening influences brought to bear by this kind lady 
and her Sisters. The Bishop and his sister came orig- 
inally from Brittany. Having obtained a site outside 
the town, the church and convent were built, and the 
grounds laid out and planted. Often they might be 
seen engaged with their Breton gardener in giving 
directions for the further improvement of the property. 
Then suddenly the war breaks out, and all is changed. 
The military include the site in their plans for defence ; 
trees are cut down ; fences levelled ; and the buildings 
loopholed, and occupied with armed men ; only a 
small part remains as a refuge for the nuns. Although 
every possible consideration was shown in the circum- 
stances, yet, no doubt, the constant anxiety and alarm 
these ladies were unavoidably kept in, must have told 
upon their health. This, together with increased 
responsibility, in the care of her Sisters, probably 
Death caused the Lady Superior to succumb to an illness 
superior, which might otherwise not have been serious. Her 
funeral was conducted with much ceremony, in the 
presence of a large concourse of mourners, on the 
17th January it having been postponed by the 
Fathers from the previous day, in consequence of the 
state of excitement into which the camps had been 
thrown, through the town being threatened by a party 
of Boers in the absence of the main portion of the 
troops, engaged, ten miles away, in an attack on the 
Elandsfontein position ; and the body was deposited 


in a vault constructed in the Convent ground, wreaths CHAP. 

and flowers dropped by the loving hands of former 

pupils covering the coffin. 

The Bishop of Pretoria was on his return journey Bishop of 
from a meeting of the Diocesan Synod in the Cape 
Colony, and had reached Standerton when the war 
broke out. Nothing daunted, he pushed on, leaving 
by the last post-cart on the 23d December. At 
Heidelberg he was stopped, but eventually allowed 
by the triumvirate to go on, and he soon after joined 
his family, w r ho had already removed to the camp. 
His lordship's physical powers must have been good, 
for every Sunday he generally managed to get through 
five services, held in the different camps or the 
cathedral, and "matins" and "evensong" each week- 
day in the open air. We fear that his efforts met 
with but a poor response at the daily services, and 
that then but " two or three " would " be gathered 

The position in which Dr Bousfield has been now 
left, through the retrocession of the province, is one 
very different from that which existed before, though 
even that turned out by no means equal to what he 
had been led to expect before lie left England in 
1878. Giving up a good living, with a comfortable 
rectory, in one of the pleasantest counties, and 
migrating at middle age with a wife, an accomplished 
lady, and large family, accustomed to English society 
and style of living, was no ordinary sacrifice. To any 
but those who grew their own produce and led the 
life of Boers, living in the Transvaal cost double that 

200 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, in England. The withdrawal of the British Govern- 

ment, garrison, and most of the English population, 

while most materially darkening his own and his 
family's prospects, has largely crippled his means and 
power for good in the interests of his Church. Dr 
Bousfield being a man of powerful frame and naturally 
energetic character, he has hitherto been able to move 
about his extensive diocese, and encounter fatigue in 
a way which he cannot expect to be able to accom- 
plish satisfactorily a few years hence. The anticipa- 
tion of this period which cannot be long deferred 
and may be close at hand cannot but be a cause of 
serious anxiety to him and his. 

People Feeling occasionally ran very high against persons 

of S hoidmg suspected of holding communication with the enemy, 
nication by means of natives, signal-lights, &c., or of spreading 

with the ... mi T-\ 

enemy. false or injurious reports. To have a Dutch name 
was to some people like a red rag to a bull. Even 
trusted officers of volunteers had reports lodged 
against them, and their loyalty suspected. Many 
people lost their heads in such matters, and gave 
credence to any absurd story which responded to 
their prejudices. They would go to the deputy 
provost-marshal, the garrison commandant, or even 
the colonel commanding, and seek to influence them 
to take summary action against suspected individuals. 
Fortunately these officers had cooler judgments, and 
required direct evidence, which never seemed forth- 
coming, of the acts related. Had they given way to 
the evident desire of some, that they should exercise 


their summary powers and make examples, very ugly CHAP. 
results might have followed. A careful watch was, 
however, kept, parties sometimes lying out at night, 
surrounding certain houses and places ; but though a 
latent suspicion was still occasionally entertained, no 
sufficient proof of guilt could in any case be obtained. 
Ladies were by no means exempted from suspicion. 
One, who was said to be engaged to be married to 
a known Boer sympathiser, was an especial object of 
distrust, it having been repeatedly averred that she 
used signalling - lights at nights. Another woman, 
who might in former days have fared badly as a 
witch for her predictions and for that matter would, 
at this time, if those who had the wish to molest her 
had had their way managed by some happy hits, 
putting two and two together, as the saying is, or 
else, really, by earlier information acquired through 
Boer sources probably the former, to impress her 
hearers and gain credit for superior knowledge of 
what was taking place outside. She was said to have 
told those who sought her of reverses encountered by 
our troops before the intelligence reached the author- 
ities, and to have assured them that " Your Colley 
will never reach Pretoria ! " 

The curious optical effect sometimes produced by optical 
setting or rising stars like momentary flashes of c 
light, probably from heat-refraction when the stars 
were rising or sinking in the horizon behind a hill- 
often led to reports being made that the Boer laager, 
ten miles away to the west, was answering signals 
from the camp or town. The same cause gave rise to 

202 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, similar suspicions at Standerton ; while at Potchef- 
stroom 1 signals like rockets were noticed, due perhaps 

to like optical delusions. 
spies and That there were spies and traitors, white and black, 

traitors in,., _. . -.. , . 111 

the camp, high and low, in and about the camps, is tolerably 
certain ; but they were held in check, and as far as 
possible prevented from working serious mischief. 2 

Various dodges were said to have been resorted to 
to obtain surreptitiously the countersign, so that the 
cordon of sentries might be passed through ; for 
instance, when the relief or rounds were challenged, 
the endeavour would be made to approach sufficiently 
near to overhear the password. It was even surmised 
that, on occasions, a volunteer had fictitiously placed 
himself on picket sentry, and boldly challenged and 
demanded the countersign of any one approaching, or 
even of an adjoining sentinel ; when, having obtained 

1 This is alluded to by Major Montague in his account of " The 
Defence of Standerton," in ' Blackwood's Magazine ' for July and August 
1881; and in Colonel Winsloe's "Siege of Potchefstroom," in 'Mac- 
millan's Magazine' for April 1883. 

2 An officer, who from his position was a good deal thrown amongst 
the civilians and natives, and had good opportunities for forming a sound 
opinion, writes : " I do not entertain a particle of doubt that the Boers 
had received more or less notice of our intended attack at the Red 
House 12th February just as they received notice of all that we 
did. Every expedition was, I found, known and discussed in the volun- 
teers' lines long before the regulars had any idea of it. This was one of 
the peculiar difficulties against which the chiefs had to contend, for it 
was incident to the very nature of the circumstances, it being impossible 
to distinguish, even in the highest social grades, whom of the civilians 
to trust and whom to distrust. . . . The lines were full of traitors, 
some who 'ran with the hare while holding with the hounds,' but also 
some who were deliberate spies. ... It speaks well for the military 
organisation, with the nests of spies in our midst, we were never surprised, 
nor any advantage over the garrison gained in any way." 


a knowledge of it, tie would be enabled to pass through CHAP. 
the line of sentries into the town or elsewhere. To - 
prevent an abuse of the countersign, it was sometimes 
changed in the night, and it was forbidden to utter it 
in an audible voice to any but the sentry. 

In such a rough-and-tumble life, with, to many, Accidents. 
unaccustomed work, as the investment necessarily 
brought, it is not surprising that accidents occurred 
with firearms, and in other ways. The wonder rather 
is that, the men being often so mixed in their nation- 
alities, and placed on guard or picket together some- 
times with outer and inner lines of sentries by night 
more mistakes giving rise to casualties were not 
made. The fact, however, that none originated from 
these causes, shows how constant must have been the 
care and supervision exercised by those placed over 
the civilian levies, especially during the earlier part 

of the war. 

Of minor injuries, of course, there were plenty Minor in- 
toes, fingers, or limbs suffering in felling wood ; in 
working the mowing, forage-cutting, or corn-crush- 
ing machines ; or in performance of the numerous 
heavy duties attending erecting fortified positions, 
moving heavy stores, &c.; but some accidents of a 
more serious nature may be noted. 

Deputy- Assistant Commissary-General Whitley was Deputy- 
thrown from his horse, and kicked in the face. His commis- 


iaw was greatly iniured, and it was some time before raiwwtiey 

J . . . thrown and 

he was able to resume his duties. Occurring at the kicked by 

his horse. 

outset, when the Commissariat were hard pressed and 

204 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, overworked in bringing in supplies from the town, 
- and making arrangements for provisioning the civil 

population, this mishap was felt the more by his de- 

An artii- In January, two artillerymen in camp entering into 
accidental- a discussion as to which was the handier to load from, 
the bandolier or the pouch, proceeded to test the 
question practically on the spot, with the result that 
one, in his excitement to gain upon the other, acci- 
dentally discharged his carbine, and lodged a bullet 
in the other's chest. The wounded man lay for some 
time in a critical condition, but eventually the bullet 
was extracted and he recovered. 

Amounted About the same period, one morning, after a very 

man and heavy downpour of several inches of rain in the night, 

drowned, when the streams had become torrents, one of the 

mounted troop of the 94th Eegiment, on cattle-guard, 

endeavoured to cross the Aapjes river just below the 

town, in order, it was supposed, to turn back some 

oxen, when both horse and man were swept down the 

stream. The body of the man was recovered the 

following day. 

Lieutenant At the beginning of February, Lieutenant O'Grady, 

injured'. commanding the mounted troop of the 94th Regiment, 

met with a bad accident, which laid him up for the 

rest of the investment, having broken his leg through 

slipping off the stoep l of a hut. 

Mr Hen- A fortnight after, Mr Hendricks, formerly armourer- 
iiy sergeant of the 1st battalion 13th Regiment, but who 
had taken his discharge and settled as a gunsmith at 

1 Raised terrace in front. 


Pretoria, was working for the Ordnance Store Depart- CHAP. 


ment in camp, when another man, examining the 
barrel of a rifle, and unaware that it was loaded, ex- 
ploded it, the bullet striking Mr Hendricks side- 
ways in the stomach, but fortunately passing out 
again without causing vital injury. 

Near the close of the investment, Sergeant Goldie, Sergeant 

. Goldie 

of Nourse's Horse, was killed by a kick in his chest killed by 

a kick from 

from his horse. The animal was grazing in a field llis horse - 
in the town, when the sergeant going up behind to 
saddle him and return to camp, he suddenly lashed 
out with fatal effect. Sergeant Goldie had previously 
served with the 17th Lancers, and had been wounded 
in the Zulu campaign. 

The dreaded horse-sickness season fortunately set in Losses in 

, horses and 

unusually late, and cases only began to be noticed at mules. 
the commencement of February. 1 Every precaution 
was taken against its spread ; but already, on the 1 4th 
February, Colonel Bellairs is found remarking that 
" the daily decreasing number of effective horses, aris- 
ing from horse-sickness and war casualties, gradually 
but surely lessens our power for offensive operations." 2 
The losses after that date rapidly increased, until in 
one week in March they amounted to about 30 horses. 

1 In the ' News of the Camp ' of the 10th February there appeared a 
paragraph, evidently written by Mr Du-Val, which, after alluding to 
the appearance of this disease, goes on to say : " If there are to be any 
further reconnaissances or attacks upon the enemy's position in the 
neighbourhood, it were well that they were done quickly; but a general 
spread of this disease leaves our troopers horseless, exclaiming with 
Richard, ' A horse ! a horse ! my kingdom for a horse ! ' " 

2 See Appendix X*. 

206 THE TEANSVAAL WAE, 1880-81. 

CHAP. The number of horses expended in action during 
- the investment was 215, of which 45 were killed or 

lost in action. Of mules there were 65 expended, of 
which 21 in action. 

Evasions Many attempts at evasion were practised to avoid 
tnandeer- handing over stores or horses commandeered, though 
generally the merchants and others had acquiesced in 
the necessity and facilitated the transfer of their pro- 
perty. Fresh raids were occasionally undertaken by 
Assistant Commissary-General Le Mesurier and his 
officers, and more provisions found stowed away in 
hidden places. So also with horses, some of the best 
having been secreted for a long time, until the re- 
quirements of the service obliged greater pressure. 
The owners, thinking themselves safe, would even 
sometimes condole with Assistant Commissary-Gen- 
eral Walton, who acted as director of remounts, on 
the increasing scarcity of efficient horses, little knowing 
that that officer already had information, through 
native agency, as to the whereabouts of the animals 
they were holding back, and was merely biding his 
time to act. One man thus had his horse in a barn, 
hidden from view by a wall of straw ; another 
kept his pet steed in his grocery store, concealed by 
piles of boxes of brandy, preserved meat, and Colman's 
starch. A medical man, who possessed a handsome 
mare, to disarm suspicion always drove about with a 
wretched weedy pony, and caused it to be inferred 
that the mare had previously been parted with and 


sent away. A descent was made on the doctor's CHAP. 

. . in. 

house ; but the assurance was given that no animal 

was in the stable. This was found correct ; but the 
mare was discovered in the kitchen. 

March arrived, and still no communication had March. 
reached from outside the Transvaal since Sir George 
Colley's telegram, via Kimberley, of the 1st January, 
notifying that reinforcements were on their way. 
Neither had anything come in from Potchefstroom or 
Lydenburg, though all was known to be going on well 
at Eustenburg and Marabastadt. 1 Beyond frequent 
patrols and occasional skirmishes in outpost-work, it 

1 From the Colonel Commanding, Transvaal, to the Deputy 
Adjutant- General, Pietermaritzburg. 

" PRETORIA, February 24, 1881. 

" 1. I have the honour to transmit for the information of the Major- 
General Commanding, a further report to the 18th instant, received from 
2d Lieutenant Despard, 2d Bn. 21st Foot, Commanding at Rusten- 

" 2. Since my last despatch, dated 14th instant, nothing of particular 
import has occurred at Pretoria. The enemy still occupy the same 
position around, and with the same strength as already reported. Wood- 
cutting, hay-mowing, and cattle-grazing continue in different directions 
daily, at from two to three miles' distance, under the protection of a 
small force composed of infantry, artillery, and mounted men. I ap- 
pend lists of those who have succumbed from wounds or disease, as also 
of the wounded who still remain under treatment in hospital. Lieii- 
tenant-Colonel Gildea, 2d Bn. 21st Foot, is progressing favourably. 
The general health is good. On Lieutenant-Colonel Gildea becoming 
disabled, I took immediate command of the garrison as well. 

" 3. I have had no direct information regarding the condition of the 
94th wounded at Bronkhorst Spruit, but indirectly I learn that a waggon- 
load of flour, &c., had been sent to their camp from an adjoining farm. 

" 4. Similarly, I hear that the rebel Boers have withdrawn from Lyden- 
burg to assist in strengthening the force called up by Piet Joubert to 
meet the advancing reinforcements coming from Natal." 

208 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, had not been thought advisable to carry out any 
in. . . . 

offensive movement against the enemy s positions after 

the Eed House affair, but patiently to bide the time 
when, relief being at hand, an advantageous sortie 
might be made and blow struck. The expediency 
of this course is set forth in Colonel Bellairs's despatch 
of the 4th March. 1 Allusion is made therein to the 

1 From the Colonel Commanding, Transvaal, to the Deputy 
Adj utant-General, Pietermaritzburg. 

" PRETORIA, March 4, 1881. 

"1. My last despatch was dated 24th February 1881. No official com- 
munication has reached Pretoria from Natal or Cape Colony since the 
telegraphic message sent by Sir George Pomeroy-Colley to his Excellency 
the Administrator about the 1st January, via Kimberley, announcing the 
departure of reinforcements from England and India. Neither has any- 
thing been received from the officers commanding at Potchefstroom or 
Lydenburg, or later than the 12th January from the officer command- 
ing at Marabastadt, though messengers have been several times despatched 
hence to these places with instructions to return. 

" 2. I have not considered it expedient to carry out lately further 
attacks on the enemy's positions around Pretoria, though making recon- 
naissances occasionally. These expeditions, however successfully con- 
ducted, usually result in about a score of casualties each time, and that, too, 
amongst the men who can least be spared, and with horses that cannot 
be replaced. The expenditure of 9-pounder gun ammunition has on such 
occasions been large. The enemy also, on our falling back, can reoccupy 
the positions temporarily wrested from them. The moral effect on the 
rebels, of course, remains ; but, beyond what has already been done, I 
feel that I must husband our strength for emergencies which may yet 
arise, and that I should be scarcely justified in running the risk of being 
obliged to draw in the lines of defence, and so lose facilities for cattle- 
gra/ing, haymaking, &c. 

" 3. The garrison generally, but especially the regular troops and 
mounted corps, has been very hard worked since the investment com- 
menced, now nearly three months ago ; the 2/21st Foot, for instance, 
besides heavy day -fatigues, being on guard or outlying night -picket 
every second or third night. This regiment, having to garrison the 
hill-forts, furnish signallers, police, and other indispensable garrison 
duties, and its band working two guns, has only about 130 men left 
available for guard, with perhaps 40 additional for picket. 

" This will further illustrate the difficulty of making offensive move- 


inconveniently large expenditure of gun ammunition CHA.P. 
already incurred, which included about 300 shells. 
Of rifle ammunition, about 37,000 rounds had been tureofam- 

. munition. 

used, but an ample supply remained. 

When hostilities were over, it was ascertained that Natives 
certain natives, who had come in from the other side Boers with 
of the Magaliesberg range, had been systematically 
sent by the Boers to gather information for them, and 
to deceive us. In order to induce us to adventure 
an attack on their strongest position the Wonder- 
boom Pass when we should certainly have lost 
heavily, we were told by these men that they had 
heard letters read out in the Boer Laager, calling for 
reinforcements to be despatched to Laing's Nek ; and, 
during successive visits from these natives, the force 
to guard the Wonderboom was declared to have been 
reduced in consequence first, by one party going off 

ments a day's march out, at the same time protecting the place with its 
4000 inhabitants. Fortunately the health of the troops has remained 
good. Had it proved otherwise, the reduction of effectives might have 
exercised a serious influence. . . . 

" 4. It speaks well for the garrison that, although composed of a great 
mixture of troops regulars, volunteers, citizens, and natives not once 
has there been a false alarm, or, according to South African phraseology, 
a 'scare'; and this, though the enemy's patrols have approached at 
night, and shots have occasionally been fired by our sentries. 

" 5. I have endeavoured, as far as lay in my power, and I trust success- 
fully, to keep all military expenditure within proper limits, and with 
this object have invited the co-operation of the Local Government. 
Valuation Boards, consisting of civil officials and gentlemen well ac- 
quainted with marketable prices, were, at my request, appointed by his 
Excellency the Administrator to regulate and fix the value of all horses, 
cattle, Royal Engineers, commissariat, and ordnance goods seized for 
the necessities of the garrison and townspeople." 

210 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, and then another until, finally, only twenty men 


had been left to defend the position ! 

Falsity of Keconnaissances made, however, by Colonel Bellairs 
licence early in March, had already sufficiently proved the 
falsity of the intelligence thus sought to be palmed 


made. upon us, and demonstrated that that Boer post was 
fully held. On the afternoon of the 8th, advantage 
was taken of a strong cattle-guard being out in the 
direction of the Wonderboom, to the right of the 
river running through the pass, to send out a party 
with guns to reconnoitre to the left of the stream. 
A dropping fire had been going on between the cattle- 
guard and the Boer vedettes, when owing to the 
approach of the reconnoitring party and an attack 
appearing imminent the Boers were soon to be seen 
swarming up the hill to their defensive positions, 
behind the rocks and the wall they had built across 
the gorge. The following day, when a similar re- 
connaissance was made to the right of the river, a 
mounted party was sent in advance to scale a 
Kafir path leading to the crest of the range, about 
three miles to the right of the pass. They had 
not proceeded far when they encountered a fire, 
and a party of Boers were seen to be in readiness 
there also, to dispute any attempt to gain the top 
or move along the hills from that quarter. The 
range of our guns was then tested for future use ; 
it being at this period thought that the Boers, 
after being driven back by Sir George Colley, 
might retreat in this direction, and form behind 
the Magaliesberg. 

o o 


Besides ordinary risks from fire, the danger always CHAP. 
existed that a night-attack might be attempted, in 

& . Risks from 

combination with firing the buildings, &c., by some tire - 
disaffected civilians and Boer sympathisers, or pos- 
sibly natives in the camp, when great consternation 
and alarm would have arisen among the women and 
children, with probably a stampede of the horses and 

There was much combustible stuff about wooden 
stores and sheds, hay and forage ricks ; and the huts, 
although built of stone, had, many of them, low, 
thatched roofs. A quantity of powder some for 
blasting purposes, belonging to the merchants also 
dynamite, sufficient to have destroyed the camp, 
was stored in a central building, unsuited for such a 

Even the elements at this season thunderstorms 
being of frequent occurrence contributed to render 
the situation more dangerous. A house in the town, 
one night at the end of December, was struck by 
lightning and burnt. 

To guard as much as possible against these dangers, p re cau- 
extraordinary precautions were taken. Fire-engines adopted. 
were kept in constant practice and readiness the 
pickets to work them sleeping alongside. Buckets, 
with water, were placed round the thatched huts, 
hay-ricks, hospital marquees, &c., with tarpaulins at 
hand, to spread over and smother any incipient fire. 
Smoking was prohibited in the immediate vicinity of 
the ordnance and the commissariat stores, hospital 
marquees, and hay-ricks ; and general cautions were 

212 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, issued regarding the use of matches and lights all 

with such good effect that only one accident of any 

consequence occurred : the wall of a hospital marquee, 
with some wounded inside, was discovered on fire, but 
immediately put out. 

When, in March, a rumour untraceable, like many 
others, at the time to its origin spread that Pot- 
chefstroom had fallen, and that the Boers were mov- 
ing the two captured guns to attack Pretoria, it was 
decided to be on the side of caution, and take timely 
steps to construct a safer magazine for the gunpowder 
and other explosives. The Royal Engineers, accord- 
ingly, set about building one under the glacis or slope 
outside the camp to the south. 

cmnp A little paper, entitled ' News of the Camp ' got 

up by Messrs Du-Val & Deecker, with the loan of 
type and machinery from the ' Transvaal Argus ' office, 
that journal having suspended its publication was 
allowed to be printed and published, under a mild 
censorship, in the camp. The first number appeared 
on Christmas Day ; and it continued to come out, 
twice or thrice a-week, until it had reached its fortieth 
number at the beginning of April, by which time the 
civil population had returned to the town. The dearth 
of news amongst such a confined community, and want 
of fresh topics to write about after the first few weeks 
had passed, and the novelty attending the situation 
had worn off, must have sorely taxed the editor's 
powers in filling his paper. Attacks on the enemy's 
positions could not be got up for every edition, to give 


scope to Mr Du-Val's varied talents with pen and CHAP. 
rifle ; but occasionally a flag of truce would come in, 
bringing material for reflection and dissertation Boer 
Government ' Gazettes ' and the Orange Free State 
' De Express/ giving details of the successive reverses 
experienced by Sir George Colley, with extracts from 
the English newspapers, showing which way " the 
straws were setting." The open-air concerts and the- 
atricals, too, gave congenial opportunities for descrip- 
tion and pleasant criticism. Births there were, and 
deaths also, to record, but no marriages ; though gos- 
sip had it that several "were arranged" during this 
exciting period, in the intervals of more pressing mili- 
tary duty. 

Mr Gros to whom we have already alluded l as Photo- 
having rendered good service in photographing de- c 
spatches and orders in microscopic form, for transmis- 
sion by native messengers made many very interest- 
ing photographic sketches of various camp scenes, and 
groups of officers and men, during the investment. 
When hostilities were over, and the Boers flocked into 
the town, this gentleman was carrying on a large 
business in supplying departing friends with reminis- 
cences of the siege, and taking the portraits of our 
former enemies, so much so, that his supply of 
chemicals and other photographic materials soon be- 
came exhausted, and work had to be given up until 
fresh stores could be obtained from Durban. Some 
of the Boer commandants taken were fine, good-look- 
ing men, and presented a very effective appearance in 

1 See ante, p. 171. 

214 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, their martial equipment of rifle and bandolier. Both 

- Assistant Commandant-General Hendrick Schoeman 

and Commandant Henning Pretorius, of the Red 

House and Elandsfontein Laagers respectively, came 

up to this description. 

Adminis- A German gentleman, speaking at a " banquet " 
martial given in the town in honour of his Emperor's birth- 
day, remarked upon the successful way in which the 
military authorities had enforced martial law without 
having had recourse to harsh measures, and humor- 
ously added that he did not feel sure if, had he been 
placed in similar circumstances in his own country, 
he might not have been sentenced to be shot several 
times over for minor etourderies or what not. This 
gentleman, of course, fulfilled his duties, and had 
nothing to fear from the effects of martial law as 
administered by us; but took in good part the inev- 
itable curtailment of individual liberty its enaction 
involved. But it was far from being so with all, 
though, fortunately, the irreconcilables were in a con- 
siderable minority. Nevertheless, as time went by, 
they became more numerous, discontented, demon- 
strative, and troublesome to deal with. Many be- 
longing to this category were among those who had 
clamoured for the imposition of martial law before 
its introduction, and who now found its working not 
altogether to their liking. 1 "With some other classes 

1 Mr Du-Val thus wrote on this subject in the 'News of the 
Camp ' : 

" Martial Law, what it means. Before the town of Pretoria was aban- 
doned, several meetings were held, at which resolutions were passed 


the disloyal and the evil-doers martial law con- CHAP. 

... . in. 

tinned to exercise its full influence. Had it not been 

so, much mischief must have arisen from the former, 
and loss of property from the latter. 

urging upon the Government the desirability of proclaiming martial 
law. The authorities, however, refused to resort to such an extremity 
until force of circumstances compelled them to do so. Some of the men 
who were foremost in clamouring for martial law would now gladly 
eat their words and beg for a resumption of the former state of affairs, 
if they thought there was the slightest chance of the plea being success- 
ful. They knew not what they asked, but they are being speedily 
taught, for every day furnishes fresh evidence of the marked contrast 
there is between the liberty of the subject (both in words and deeds) 
now, and what it was in the very worst days of our Crown Colony rule. 
We do not for a moment complain ourselves, nor do we think there are 
many who can really find any fault at the treatment they receive at the 
hands of the military authorities. It may be that some of our citizens 
have been placed in positions they ought not to have occupied, and that, 
acting on the principle that ' kissing goes by favour,' they have looked 
to the comfort of their friends before some others who are probably more 
deserving. But every man has his remedy. The commandant of the 
garrison is ever ready to pay particular attention to any just cause of 
complaint, whether it be a case of favouritism on the part of a ward- 
master, or over-officiousness on that of any other officer. On the charge 
being laid, the best of them will be brought to book, and if they are not 
able to give a good account of their stewardship, they will be suitably 
rewarded. Under martial law all are treated alike. There may be a 
few cases which are not properly reported to the authorities, but what- 
ever there may have been in the way of dereliction of duty it certainly 
cannot be laid at the doors of the military. If they ever err and we 
suppose as mortals they sometimes do it is rather in an opposite direc- 
tion. But to those who have been so desirous of understanding what 
martial law is, we have to recommend the study of the following ex- 
tract from general orders. If they are apt to learn at all, it will not be 
long before they know something about their favourite subject. We 
would also remind them that they cannot go to town or return to camp 
without a pass, which can only be obtained if they are not wanted by 
their ward-master ; that there are only two points of ingress or egress to 
the camp ; that they are all of them soldiers without having taken the 
shilling ; and that if they have wives they have been practically divorced 
from them for three weeks. Such is martial law. Yet withal, men, 
women, and children appear to be much more happy and contented 
than they might be expected to be under the circumstances. Men take 

216 THE TRANSVAAL WAE, 1880-81. 

CHAP. The Deputy Provost-Marshal Captain Campbell, 
who also commanded the company of the 94th Regi- 

Provost- f f r J o 

Marshal, ment which garrisoned Fort Royal had a difficult 
task in maintaining order generally, preventing the 
sale of liquor, and protecting the deserted town 
against marauders ; the inhabitants, too, frequently 
leaving their property insufficiently secured. He re- 
quired the judicious and cool head he possessed to 
enable him, whilst perhaps watching or overawing 
suspected persons, to guard himself against giving 
too ready credence to the excited accusations which 
were always being advanced, even by some high in 
station or position, against certain men and women 
of known Boer leanings. 

Formerly a provost - marshal could be invested 
with power to punish summarily any person caught 
red - handed ; but the Army Discipline Act then 
only recently become law had altered all that, and 
the onus of investigating each case, when punishment 
was required by court-martial or otherwise, was now 
thrown on the officer commanding the troops, as if 
an officer in such a position in time of war had not 
already more than enough to occupy him, without 
this additional clog upon his energies, distracting his 
attention from more serious matters. In order to 
afford some relief from this cumbrous course of action 

well to soldiering, the ladies do their afternoon calls as naturally as if 
they were in town, and the children find the mud of the camp quite as 
conducive to health and a clear complexion as any dust-heap they ever 
played on in their lives. Sickness is happily a rare occurrence, and the 
rate of mortality is as low, if not lower, than it has ever been known to 
1>e in the city from which we have recently fled. This is the best side 
of the picture." 


wholly unsuited to the situation, and which would CHAP. 

. in. 

appear to have been dictated by persons who could 

never have had any real acquaintance with the diffi- 
culties attending the execution of martial law in a 
non- European country the Landclrost's Court was 
continued, to enable that magistrate to inquire into 
cases against civilians or natives, when of a non- 
military character, under the summary powers he 
possessed, to inflict six months' imprisonment and 
with natives twenty lashes. 

The Deputy Provost-Marshal had at first only a Police. 
few white men and natives acting under him as 
police ; but later, this body was increased by the 
addition of some specially selected volunteers. The 
selling of liquor, unless at the garrison canteens, or 
with special permits in each case, was prohibited, 
but found very difficult to stop in the midst of a 
population, civilians and soldiers, so mixed up. All 
were forbidden to leave the military lines or enter 
the tow r n without passes. Heavy work, no doubt, 
contributed to indispose many breaking through this 
restriction ; but the severe punishments inflicted and 
examples made of those who were caught seeking 
liquor or plunder had still more effect, and the loss 
of property was not great or anything to be surprised 
at. 1 The only robbery of any consequence was one bery. 

1 District Order by Colonel Bellairs, C.B. : 

" PRETORIA, 3d January 1881. 

" Complaints have readied the ears of the Colonel commanding, of 
depredations having been committed on the property of inhabitants 
since they removed from the town, and that volunteers and others, 
under pretence that they were acting under authority, have demanded 

218 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, which took place in the camp. The manager of the 
Cape Commercial Bank had, at his own risk, placed 
ten boxes of gold-dust, of the value of about 4000 
each, in one of the provost cells, in which the dyna- 
mite was locked up. At the close of the investment, 
the boxes were removed, without being counted, to 
the bank's premises in the town. It was then dis- 
covered that one of the boxes was missing. An in- 
vestigation and search following, it transpired that 
some artillerymen had been seen in possession and 
endeavouring to dispose of nuggets of gold ; and a 
considerable quantity, about one-half, was recovered, 
being found in a water -tank outside the provost 
building, or in other places. A dozen men were 
taken into custody ; but a conviction could not be 
obtained for want of direct evidence. 

Besides ordinary malefactors white and black 
detained in the civil jail, there were the chief Seku- 
kuni and his family. When peace came they were 
released, with the acquiescence of the Boer Govern- 
ment ; but poor Sekukuni, on his way back to his 
former district, discovered, to his cost for he was soon 
after murdered that his tribe had been broken up, 
and, other chiefs having entered into possession of 
his country, his return was opposed. Mr Colliers, the 

from servants left in charge of private premises, and taken for tlieir own 
use, articles of produce, poultry, &c. 

" Colonel Bellairs trusts that any inhabitants who have so suffered 
will endeavour to identify such marauders and lodge complaints 
against them to the Deputy Provost-Marshal, when, on sufficient proof, 
the offenders will be rigorously dealt with." 


editor of the ' Volksstem ' who had, prior to hostili- CHAP. 

. . ni. 

ties, been sentenced to a month's imprisonment for 

sedition was made to undergo that judgment as a 
civil prisoner, afterwards returning to the Civil Laager. 
Several were arrested on suspicion of sedition at the 
commencement of hostilities ; but as the officer com- 
manding the troops declined, in the absence of suffi- 
cient evidence, to allow of their detention as Provost- 
Marshal's prisoners, they were released. One man 
was, however, detained in prison by the local Govern- 
ment throughout the whole period of investment 
without trial. 

The wives of Dr Jorrisen, State Attorney, and Mr Mrs Jor- 

-P. , P, _ . risen and 

Bok, State Secretary to the Boer Government, andMrsBok 

. -i -i under sur- 

their families, were among others accommodated in 
the Jail Laager. An offer had been made to these 
ladies that they should quit the town for Heidelberg, 
and conveyance to the adjoining Boer Laager had 
been proffered, but they preferred to remain. They 
then, on the withdrawal of the inhabitants from the 
town, took up their residence at a house in the Bo- 
tanical Gardens only so in name a mile to the west 
of the camp ; but as there they could easily have 
communicated with the enemy outside, they were 
ordered in, when they selected the Jail Laager as 
their place of residence. At the conclusion of the 
peace negotiations, they rejoined their husbands at 
Heidelberg. At first, when in the Jail Laager, they 
were under supervision as to their movements ; but 
Colonel Bellairs, learning that this was found irksome 
and annoying by them, called on the ladies, and, on 

220 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, the understanding that they would not abuse the 
indulgence, ordered the removal of all restrictions, 
and that they should be allowed into the town the 
same as others, without being watched or followed. 

NO unne- It speaks well for the motley garrison that, though 

alarms! numbers of those taking part in the defence then 

shouldered a rifle for the first time, from the begin- 

nino- to the end of the investment there had been 


nothing approaching to a general alarm or " scare," 
such as occurred more than once to the troops on the 
march to Ulundi, when guns and regiments opened 
fire on an imaginary foe, and pickets stampeded 
without cause. Now and then one heard of a few 
shots having been fired at some approaching object, 
declared the following morning to have been only a 
stray donkey, but no alarm or turn-out was occasioned. 
Once or twice intelligence came in at night of large 
Boer patrols in the vicinity visiting Skinner's Farm, 
two miles to the west of the camp, and a portion of 
the garrison on that front stood to their arms ; but 

O 3 

no general night turn-out ever occurred, neither was 
there any camp alarm or disorder. 1 The farm referred 
to had been allowed to be continued in occupation by 
j\Ir Skinner, as he was considered perfectly loyal, and 
the produce from his dairy was beneficial to the camp ; 
but some suspicion was perhaps entertained against 
him on account of his wife being a sister of Com- 
mandant Heiming Pretorius of Elandsfontein, a few 
miles further west. 

1 See ante, note, p. 209. 


Numerous baboons were occasionally seen on the CHAP. 

Magaliesberg range and spurs. Their activity, and 

the regular manner in which they would perform their mistaken 

. for Boer 

outpost duty, throwing out sentries here and there, move- 
would sometimes deceive even military eyes, aided by 

glasses, into the belief that these creatures were Boers 
assembling together, seemingly in great excitement, 
for purposes of attack, and reports would be made 

Some amusing incidents were related at the time Vagaries of 

., . , sentries. 

though we tail now to call to mind more than one or 
two attending the sentry-work by night, when the 
countersign had to be demanded. The performance 
of their duties by men imperfectly acquainted with 
the English language, and not fully understanding 
the military instructions given to them perhaps, 
also, not over proficient in the handling of their rifles 
would often occasion danger to others. An officer 
was nearly shot by a volunteer who would insist on 
his roaring out the countersign at 300 yards' distance. 
It was necessary to employ some of the native drivers 
on armed duties around the transport laagers by 
night. It was explained that they should challenge 
all approaching their posts, then demand that one 
should advance and give the countersign. One night 
when " Tuesday " was the countersign, Hendrik Pinto 
was on duty for the first time. Soon a step was heard 
approaching : " Oo-kom-da?" shouted Hendrik; "just 
stop da, or I shoot yer quick." " Friend ! " cried out 
the invisible individual, getting a little nervous as to 
his reception. " Ah ! " said the zealous sentry, " then 

222 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, you just kom longside 'o me and say ' Toosday,' that's 
- all." Some of the soldiers took special delight in ly- 
ing in wait for an unfortunate doctor, returning after 
dark from visiting some civilian patients. He occa- 
sionally would have to run the gauntlet of several, 
who would wait until he was close up, and then sud- 
denly scare him by coming down to the charge, with 
bayonet within an inch of his breast, at the same time 
demanding the countersign in a stentorian voice. 

The ration Native reports which, not being favourable to us, 


were the less likely to have been manufactured, and 
therefore the more entitled to credence coming in 
during the second week in March, foreshadowing the 
Majuba disaster and the death of Sir George Colley 
on the 27th February, Colonel Bellairs considered it 
prudent the period for relief arriving being yet 
further delayed to direct that all male adults 
should be placed on a reduced scale of ration from 
the 14th March. 
change of On the morning of the loth, much excitement was 

position . . 

effected by occasioned by the appearance, seven to eight miles 

i Boer 

to the west, of a long column of mounted Boers, es- 
corting between forty to fifty waggons, the foremost 
carrying a large standard, coming, apparently, from 
the Potchefstroom road, crossing the Elandsfontein 
valley, and making for a gap in the Daas Poort range 
of hills. Various were the conjectures as to what it 
could mean. Some said it was the funeral procession 
of a great man, who was being taken to his farm to 
be buried alongside others of his family. Others 


supposed that they were Boers returning from Laing's CHAP. 
Nek, the war, from some cause, being over ; and soon, 
a horseman being signalled as approaching with a 
flag of truce, lent colour to this idea. But many only 
saw before them a favourable opportunity for attack- 
ing the column. These excitable individuals, having 
no educated military eye, pictured the enemy at- 
tacked in the position and formation in which they 
then beheld them drawn out in long procession 
and so falling an easy prey to vigorous onslaught. 
That it would take about three hours for any adequate 
force sent out to cover the seven or eight intervening 
miles, before a serious blow could be struck, was not 
thought of by these irresponsible-airy persons ; or 
that, in the interval, reinforcements would have 
assembled being no doubt in readiness to do so 
from every quarter, and the waggons have been 
safely disposed of over the hill. In fact, while our 
other attacks had been initiated under cover of 
darkness, and the Boer reinforcements had been un- 
able to arrive until after the attack had been deliver- 
ed, in this case the advance would have had to have 
been made in broad daylight, and, so to speak, our 
intention to attack notified to all the Boer laagers 
around, when their reinforcements would have been 
able to hang on our flanks and dispute the advance 
all the way out ! Indeed, about this period, much 
play was very improperly given to irresponsible 
opinion as to what ought to have been done, and the 
supposed want of offensive action on the part of the 
officer commanding unfortunately often unchecked, 

224 ' THE TRANSVAAL WAE, 1880-81. 

CHAP, but rather the reverse by some who had the oppor- 
tunity of controlling it, but preferred for reasons 
of their own to allow such a feeling to spread. 1 

The Boer waggons soon disappeared through the 
gap over the ridge, and the enemy then developed 
their intention of occupying this fresh position, by 
throwing up schanzes and defences. It was after- 
wards ascertained that the party belonged to the 
Elandsfontein Laager, which was thus removed for 
sanitary causes. The strength of this laager, in wag- 

1 An attempt was subsequently made in certain quarters, from motives 
which only those behind the scenes can appreciate at their proper value, 
to disparage the defence made at Pretoria, and detract from the services 
of the officer commanding Brigadier-General Bellairs but, fortunately, 
without the result hoped for. That officer was knighted and received 
the insignia of the Order of St Michael and St George at the hands of 
her Majesty, for the services he had rendered to the State ; and the 
Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief caused it to be intimated to him 
that " His Royal Highness has carefully considered all the matters 
connected with the period referred to, and has arrived at the conclu- 
sion that so far from any blame being attributable in conducting the 
defence, you have merited great commendation for the way in which 
a very anxious duty was performed, and the defence carried out, and 
his Royal Highness is gratified to be enabled to express his approval 
of your conduct." 

This ill-will, the evil effects of which were thus so happily frus- 
trated, through the Duke of Cambridge's habitual love of justice, was 
in curious contrast to the spontaneous cheers with which the troops 
the Royal Scots Fusiliers greeted and bid farewell to their Brigadier- 
General, when quitting his command, and filing past him on the evacu- 
ation of Pretoria. 

It has been well said "It is incalculable how far light inventions, 
judicious ridicule, hints and innuendoes may work on a dawning half- 
grown predilection. Honest people are more or less at the mercy of the 
unscrupulous, and must be so to the world's end." 

Thus even a straightforward, well-intentioned " special correspond- 
ent/' while endeavouring to arrive at the truth, may be "got at," and 
influenced by the above means ; and, regarding his informants as the 
" best authority " as to what their information implied, may work 
injustice to an individual. 


gons and men, was now seen to be about treble that CHAP. 

. m. 

estimated in Colonel Bellairs's despatch of the 6th - 

February, showing how little reliable information was 
forthcoming on such matters. 

Meanwhile the messenger bearing the white flag Flag of 
having arrived at the outposts, three miles out, sent in with 
in a letter addressed to Colonel Bellairs by Assistant armistice. 
Commandant-General Schoeman, commanding at the 
Red House Laager, which announced that an armis- 
tice had been concluded, for eight days from the 6th 
March, between Major-General Sir Evelyn Wood and 
Commandant- General Joubert, and enclosed a copy of 
its conditions. This was accompanied by some Boer 
Government ' Gazettes ' and the Orange Free State 
' De Express.' These papers confirmed the native 
reports of Sir George Colley's death, gave details of 
the Ingogo and Majuba fights, a summary of a 
Transvaal debate in the House of Commons, and English 

rrv > i i T i opinion on 

leaders irom the ' limes and other London papers the war. 
the study of which seemed to show that the imperial 
Government and general opinion in England had 
inclined towards peace since the second week in 
January, and that the fighting which had afterwards 
taken place had been unnecessary and might have 
been avoided. It was also recognised, for the first Feeling of 
time, how strong was the feeling of the Dutch- population 
speaking population of the Cape Colony and Orange colony and 


Free State in favour of the Boer movement in Free state. 
the Transvaal for independence, and how greatly 
that feeling must influence the imperial Govern- 
ment towards listening to proposals calculated to 


226 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, bring about a peace and prevent an extension of 
'- the war. 

HOW the A careful perusal of all the papers thus sent in, 
r^ceimT together with the fact of an armistice having been 
imp ' concluded for preliminary negotiations, led thoughtful 
men to form the opinion that peace was already a fore- 
gone conclusion, and that it only remained to settle 
the terms, and how best to carry them out compati- 
bly with the dignity of England. But, though a few 
reflecting and reasonable persons foresaw such a ter- 
mination at hand, certainly no one, at this time, 
anticipated that peace would be brought about or 
carried out quite in the manner it soon afterwards 
was. The most moderate conjectured that, though 
no more serious fighting was likely to take place, 
yet that the British general would at least make a 
military promenade and entry, at the head of his 
troops, into the capital of the Transvaal. They were 
scarcely prepared to see him as they did shortly 
afterwards in order to reach Pretoria, condescend- 
ing to scamper alone through the country under 
Boer sufferance. 

Altoo;ether, the news brought by the Boer messen- 

O O J 

ger the confirmation of the further reverses suffered 
on the borders of Natal, the death of Sir George 
Colley, and the near prospect of what, from an 
English standpoint, was viewed as an unsatisfactory 
termination of the war was received with dismay, 
and caused general depression throughout the camp, 
with all but those actually sympathising with the 
Boer cause. This could not be wondered at, since 


to the majority of the volunteers and townspeople it CHAP. 
implied that all their efforts and sacrifices during the - 
war had been fruitless, and that shortly, when the act 
of annexation would be annulled, they would find 
themselves ruined, and forced to seek a living else- 

An uneasy feeling; now be^an to spread amongst strong 

J ' political 

the classes \ve have just referred to. gradually in- feeling- 
creasing in intensity, and exhibiting itself in various 
ways. The majority were unable to understand the 
causes which had led to the sudden change in policy 
of the Government, and were disposed to vent their 
irritation on any siding with the views of the latter, 
or who might have leanings in favour of the Boer 
cause. There was no longer the same cordial feeling 
felt towards the military ; the animosity borne against 
the imperial Government, on account of the turn 
affairs had taken, being, in some measure, reflected 
on the troops, as in a way representing the Govern- 
ment. 1 When the volunteers were disbanded, and the 
townspeople returned to their houses, no address was 

1 An officer, speaking on this subject, tells us : " I had duty both in the 
lines of the mounted volunteers and the Convent Kedoubt, where were 
the infantry volunteers. In the former, where I had hitherto always 
met with the greatest respect, I now encountered the greatest rudeness 
and the grossest insubordination, simply because my uniform of a British 
officer represented an obnoxious Government. So bad was the conduct 
of the men under their grievous disappointment and disgust, that I feared 
a riot between them and the regulars. Near the convent I saw several 
officers hissed, and made the subject of insulting cries and remarks ; and 
on my approach to a party of volunteers, some of them were beginning 
similarly to attack me, but were checked by others, solely because I had 
been in a position to do them many little kindnesses." 

228 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, presented or thanks voted to the troops for the uni- 
- form courtesy and kind treatment they had experienced 
at their hands from the Colonel commanding to the 
private soldier. The absence of some such recogni- 
tion of the obligations they were under was the more 
marked perhaps in the case of the senior medical 
officer, from whom not having to carry out any 
distasteful restrictions or discipline connected with the 
administration of martial law they, and especially 
their families, could only have received gratuitous care 
and benefits. This divergence in feeling, solely arising 
from political causes, was further shown in an endea- 
vour to raise a civilian fund, apart from and without 
seeking the co - operation of the military at first, 
towards the erection of a monument to their fallen 

A three months' state of siege, with its many irk- 
some restraints, was vexatious enough ; but now, with 
half rations and a chronic state of mild hunger to con- 
tend ao-ainst, it became much more unendurable, ren- 

o J 7 

dering some disposed to become restive. The volun- 
teers were not altogether so amenable to discipline ; 
and Xourse's Horse composed of more devil-may- 
care materials got out of hand. As additional news 
came in, and it was slowly realised by these men that 
they would soon be cast adrift for their living how 
or where to be obtained many knew not their dis- 
content increased, culminating, when peace was an- 
nounced, in an outburst of wrath, fortunately with 
no worse result than burning Mr Gladstone in 
effigy, amid fervid utterances that the whole of the 


Ministry might soon become tenants in a certain CHAP. 

warm place. 

As the end drew near. Colonel Bellairs issued, on Final order 

of the day. 

the 22d March earlier than otherwise he might have 
done through wishing to allay the general impatience 
exhibiting itself the following district order, review- 
ing succinctly the situation of the several garrisons 
in the Transvaal under his command, and compli- 
menting and thanking the garrison and people of 
Pretoria for their exceptionally brilliant conduct dur- 
ing three months' state of siege : 

" PRETORIA, 22rf March 1881. 

" Three months passed in a state of siege has not damped 
the courage and determination of the brave little garrisons of 
Potchefstroom, Rustenburg, Marabastadt, and Lydenburg, 
widely isolated and closely invested though they be. Ac- 
cording to information which lias reached the Colonel com- 
manding, these posts continue to hold their own as confidently 
as at the beginning of hostilities, and with uniform success 
to beat off the enemy's attacks with slight loss to themselves. 

" The garrison and people men, women, and children of 
Pretoria, during this lengthened period of trouble and sus- 
pense, have behaved with remarkable coolness and endurance. 
Their situation is almost unique. Rarely indeed has a whole 
town been called upon to abandon its dwellings and withdraw 
to a military camp, and well have the inhabitants in this case 
responded and acquitted themselves of the grievous task im- 
posed upon them by the stern necessities of this war. The 
troops, largely composed of volunteers, have performed excel- 
lent service, each encounter telling its tale of greater loss 
inflicted on the enemy than on themselves. 

" The Colonel commanding now calls upon all to bear for 




of active 

a short time longer the privation, discomfort, and suspense 
attending their present situation, in the assurance that their 
deeds will hereafter live in the memories of their children 
and countrymen, and that, though for the moment cut off, 
they are certainly not forgotten by England, who has such 
good reason to be proud of her sons and daughters in this 

" Colonel Bellairs begs that all classes, and especially those 
officers, civil and military, who have had the onerous duty 
of supervising and organising the successful arrangements 
carried through during this war, will accept his hearty thanks 
for the cordial co-operation given by all." 

After the notification of the conclusion of an 
armistice had been received on the 15th no fur- 
ther offensive movements were made on either side, 
though the usual scouting and patrol duties were 
continued, and the same watch kept up. Arrange- 
ments were entered into with the Boer general to 
allow letters to pass, subject to their being left open 
for inspection. All seemed to portend that the war 
would soon be over, and in another fortnight the 
close of the investment came. 

On the evening of the 28th March, three officers 
Lieutenants Kycler, of the 60th Rifles, and Cunning- 
hame and M.enzies, of the 92d Highlanders accom- 
panied by three guides, rode into the camp, having 
come from Mount Prospect, Sir Evelyn "Wood's camp, 
in four days. They delivered a precis of the terms 
of the agreement of peace entered into, which, being 
published the next morning, was immediately followed 
by an order from Colonel Bellairs, authorising the 
inhabitants to go back to the town, and directing 


that the garrison should return to its normal peace CHAP. 
condition. 1 Transport was offered to enable all the 
people to convey their chattels to their homes, and 
the Commissariat was ordered to continue the issue of 
rations through the ward-masters. The Civil Guard 
was dissolved, and directions given for the gradual 
disbandment of the several volunteer corps. Martial 
law ceased, and the civil authorities resumed their 
former powers and functions. 

So ended the defence, not without honour to Observa- 

T- tions on 

British arms accruing; thereirom. prestige which the defence 

and its 

should not be forgotten because of want of success results. 
elsewhere and the unsatisfactory nature of the peace 

1 District Order by Colonel Bellairs, C.B. : 

" PRETORIA, 29th March 18S1. 

" With reference to the Government notice published this morning, 
hostilities having ceased, and peace having been proclaimed between 
Major-General Sir Evelyn Wood, K.C.B., and Commandant -General 
Joubert, the various garrisons in this district will return to the normal 
peace condition. 

" The inhabitants of Pretoria are at liberty to return to the town, the 
Commissariat Department for the present providing for the issue of 
rations through the ward-masters. 

" Transport will be given through the ward-masters to enable all to 
return to their homes. 

" The Civil Guard will be dissolved ; the commandant thereof return- 
ing all arms and ammunition into the colonial stores. 

" Arrangements will be made for the gradual disbanding of the Pre- 
toria Carbineers, the Pretoria Rifles, and Nourse's Horse ; the officers 
commanding these corps being responsible that all arms, ammunition, 
&c., belonging to Government be returned into store. 

" The officer commanding the garrison will be good enough to give 
the necessary directions for facilitating the above, and to see that all 
Government property is duly returned into store or otherwise taken 
care of.'" 

232 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

1 CHAP, negotiations then being hurried through. The fact 
that the capital, the seat of the British Government 
in the Transvaal, was retained to the last, was some- 
thing to be proud of, and should not have been with- 
out influence in strengthening the hands of those 
busy arranging the terms for peace. 

It has been wrongfully asserted that the town, 
when evacuated, was left defenceless. To have estab- 
lished additional forts, with stationary garrisons, on 
the distant chain of hills to the north or elsewhere 
of the town, or to have occupied and held some of 
the more defensible houses in the town, with limited 
range and observation, would not have answered the 
desired object, but have had merely the effect of 
weakening the number of reliable men held in hand 
ready for emergency and attack. Not only was the 
town protected both by day and night, through the 
means taken to ensure the garrison being forewarned, 
in time, of any approach of the enemy, and by the 
concentration and preparedness of the troops them- 
selves to thrust back attack, but the enemy was, the 
whole time, kept at bay from six to twelve miles 
all round. Surely this was in itself a satisfactory 
achievement. Long marches were also occasionally 
made to attack the Boer positions in the country, 
to even greater distances than that gone over by the 
force which left Mount Prospect camp, and fought 
on the line of communications at Ingogo. The foes 
met with on these occasions were of the same material 
as encountered by Sir George Colley, and exhibited 
no lack of courage, combativeness, or activity. They 


fought well, and attacked intelligently when they had CHAP. 
the opportunity, throughout the campaign ; but the - 
wariness, prudence, preparedness call it what you 
will of the garrison, afforded few opportunities for 
their attacking with advantage. Thus there resulted 
few losses, and the garrison remained in a condition 
fitted to prove of service to an advancing relief 
column, whenever it should as was expected ap- 
proach. The same may be said of the other Trans- 
vaal garrisons including that of Potchefstroom, until 
it became incapacitated through want of food. No 
disaster or serious reverse occurred to any of them. 
The defence of the several Transvaal garrisons forms 
the bright part of an otherwise unsuccessful campaign. 

The day following; the receipt of the notification Arrival of 

J . ' Command- 

of peace having; been made, Commandant -General ant-Gener- 

> . al Joubert. 

Joubert, accompanied by an escort of mounted Boers 
men and horses looking of the roughest description, 
and exhibiting plentiful signs of hard usage came 
in, and had an interview with the Administrator and 
officer commanding the troops. The Commandant- 
General's manner was as unpretending as his appear- 
ance at first a little nervous, as if doubtful as to 
how he might be received ; but Colonel Bellairs 
coming forward to shake his hand and offering him 
a seat, he pleasantly entered into conversation, partly 
with the aid of an interpreter. As he said he \vas 
going on to Potchefstroom, he was asked to inquire 
for some mail - bags, from the Cape and England, 
which were believed to have been detained there 

234 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, since the post-cart had ceased to run, a request 
- which the Commandant-General soon afterwards com- 
plied with, the bags, containing many opened letters, 
being brought in the following week by a farmer. 

O o o J 

Armed bodies of Boers having been signalled as in 
movement, apparently with the intention of entering 
the town, Colonel Bellairs arranged with the Com- 
mandant-General that such parties should pass out- 
side, as he was apprehensive that, in the then excited 
state of feeling of many of the townspeople, a collision 
might ensue in the absence of any controlling power, 
martial law being no longer in force, and no sufficient 
civil police available. 

Attitude of In a day or two people became calmer, and more 

the towns- - / _ 

people. concerned in looking after their own changed affairs 
and immediate future. They began to feel that their 
quarrel now should be less with the Boers than with 
the imperial Government, who, they considered, had 
deceived them, not yet understanding that the action 
of the Government had, in the main, been brought 
about by the false position in which it had been 
placed, consequent on the misleading reports made, 
and errors committed, by their employes in the 

Boors re- In this quieter mood, Boer waggons arriving from 

turn to i . . 

the town, the distant farms round about, with the supplies most 
wanted, were very welcome, and the market-place 
quickly reassumed its former aspect. The church 
in the centre of the square, so long closed, now also 
reopened, and was largely attended by the Boers 


and their families for the Nachtmaal. Generally, all CHAP. 

were very quiet and unassuming in manner, the only 

difference observable from former times being the 
large number who wore mourning ; but whether 
caused by losses they were unwilling to own to, or 
on account of the close relationship existing among 
them, was not clear. 

By the 4th April it had been notified that the Distress in 

the town. 

supplies reaching the town were sufficient for the 
inhabitants, and the issue of free rations by the 
Commissariat Department then ceased. A civil 
committee was, however, found necessary for the 
relief of distressed persons, of whom there were many. 
Steps were taken to remove such men, with their 
families, to Natal, where they might be better able to 
obtain employment, the assistance of military trans- 
port being given for the purpose. Numbers of men 
who had been receiving high pay as volunteers had 
laid nothing by, but spent all in drink. It is to be 
feared that the more respectable habits enforced upon 
this class during their residence in camp, were soon 
laid aside when the pressure of discipline was re- 
moved, and that these men relapsed into their pre- 
vious disreputable condition of life as canteen 
loafers. 1 

1 One who wrote under the designation of " A Stroller " in the camp 
paper, about a fortnight before the investment was over, thus expresses 
himself : 

" We have now been settled down in camp so long, and become so 
accustomed to the life, that I really believe there are many amongst us 
who will be sorry when the present state of affairs conies to a close, and 
we have to occupy our houses and find the wherewithal to keep body 
and soul together again. In some respect?, too, camp life will have 




Sir Owen 



But few incidents remain to be touched upon. Sir 
Owen Lanyon was recalled, and Colonel Bellairs 
who had been promoted on the 25th March to be a 
Brigadier-General was directed by Lord Kimberley 
to assume the administration of the Transvaal Govern- 
ment in his place. Sir Evelyn Wood visited Pretoria 
on the 6th April, but returned to Natal three days 
later. A lottery had been got up in the camp in 
February the winner of which was to be he who 
drew the date on which Sir George Colley or his 
representative should appear with the long-expected 
relief -column. The advent of Sir Evelyn Wood, 
though heralded by artillery salutes and guards of 
honour, was considered as scarcely coming within 
the original intentions of the subscribers, and it 
was ultimately decided to add the amount to a fund 
being raised for the erection of a memorial to those 
who had fallen in the defence of the military posts in 

done all the good in the world to a class of men who before were 
subject to no restriction, and had, through their own bad habits, and the 
example of others more dissolute than themselves, gradually developed 
into that low and depraved state so well described in South Africa by 
the designation canteen loafer. These men were formerly unknown as 
customers by the several storekeepers, and when they did venture into 
their establishments, they were carefully watched, and their exit was 
looked upon in the light of a relief. However, it is not so with them 
now. The regular and cleanly habits made compulsory upon them has 
with many of them brought about a complete reformation. They 
appear dressed as well as most other respectable men now, and are 
received with a gracious welcome by the storekeepers, for they are evi- 
dently not lack of money ; hence their custom is courted, and they 
receive the attention due to them. It is to be hoped that the men to 
whom allusion is made will not fall back into their old paths again, but 
OH the other hand, they will become the respectable members of society 
nature has in even* wav fitted them to be." 


the Transvaal. 1 The fund received by the ex-volun- CHAP. 

teers and civilians being found inadequate for the 

purpose, the co-operation of the military was sought 
some months later, prior to the evacuation of Pretoria. 
This was at once afforded ; and, at the suggestion of 
Brigadier-General Bellairs, it was determined, at a 
meeting of the subscribers, to endeavour to erect a 
suitable memorial in St Paul's Cathedral. 2 The con- 
sent of the Dean and Chapter was subsequently 
obtained to placing the monument in the crypt. 

Taking into consideration the heavy duties per- Health of 
formed and the exposure endured latterly on short sou. 
rations the health of the troops and volunteers was 
good throughout. When the news arrived the 
middle of March that peace negotiations were in 
progress, there were between eighty and ninety 
patients under treatment in hospital, about sixteen 
of w T hom were for wounds received in action. 

As regards the civil population, although a few Health of 
deaths had taken place from natural causes, there popnia. 
had been no general sickness. The arrangements for 
the care of the women and children had been such 
that, when hostilities were over, they returned to 
their homes in more robust health than when origi- 
nally, they left them for the camps. 

The casualties of the garrison had been between Casualties. 
fifty and sixty, of whom seventeen had been killed 
or died of their wounds a small loss for the brilliant 

1 See ante, p. 228. 2 See Appendix P. 




CHAP, result gained : the capital of the province saved from 
falling into the hands of the enemy. 

The distinguished conduct of the officers and men 
forming the garrison of Pretoria, as well as those be- 
longing to the other military posts in the Transvaal, 
was brought to the notice of the higher authorities 
in a closing despatch from Colonel Bellairs, dated 
31st March, 1881. 1 

1 From Colonel W. Bellairs, C.B., Commanding Transvaal District, 
to the Chief of the Staff. 

" PRETORIA, March 31, 1881. 

" 1. The termination of a long and arduous state of siege having 
arrived, a period of over three months of unceasing vigilance at Pre- 
toria, and at all the forts in the Transvaal, during which the troops 
never took off their clothes, and slept at their posts, it will probably be 
deemed a fitting time for me to bring prominently to the notice of the 
Major-General commanding the names of those officers who have so 
largely contributed to the successes gained, and the fine spirit with 
which the several positions have been held. 

" 2. Of my second in command, Lieut. -Colonel Gildea, 2-21st Foot, I 
have already had occasion to speak several times, and markedly in my 
despatch of the 14th February, with reference to the action in which 
he was wounded. I venture to express the hope that this officer, who 
has long service for the rank he holds, may receive both promotion and 
honour, so well merited. 

"3. Major Le Mesurier, E.E., has exhibited great ability in improvis- 
ing and arranging for the defences of Pretoria, as well as judgment and 
tact in managing the body of Volunteers he has had charge of, in addi- 
tion to his engineer duties. 

"4. The fact that the senior Commissariat officer, Assistant Commis- 
sary-General Le Mesurier, has been able successfully to feed 4000 men, 
women, and children, beyond the ordinary garrison, and large numbers 
of horses, mules, and cattle, for such a lengthened period, speaks for 

" ">. The Transport Branch, the Eemount and Sick-horse Depot, and 
the Native Labour Corps, were efficiently organised under Assistant 
Commissary-General Walton, who is a very deserving officer of superior 

' (j. Under Deputy-Assistant Commissary-General Markwick, the Ord- 
nance Store Branch has been admirably worked. Arms and stores of every 


description had to be seized and adapted to the requirements of the CHAP, 
large body of civilians thrown suddenly under military charge. Mr m 
Markwick on all occasions gave me every satisfaction. He is one of the 
best Ordnance Store officers I have met with. 

" 7. Captain O'Brien, as District Paymaster in the Transvaal, has, under 
largely increased responsibilities, efficiently performed his duties. 

" 8. All the hospital arrangements, both for civilians and military, 
have been most thoughtfully cared for. Brigade-Surgeon Skeen is a 
thoroughly practical organiser in his line, and a skilful surgeon, inspir- 
ing every confidence. He has been ably seconded in every way by 
Surgeon- Major Comerforcl. 

" 9. Captain Churchill, 58th Foot, Deputy- Assistant Adjutant- General, 
has had heavy and responsible duties, and by his zeal and attention to 
their performance merits recognition. 

" 10. Lieut. Hon. A. Hardinge, 2-21st Foot, acting as my Aide-de- 
camp, is a very promising yoiing officer, who performs his staff duties 
most intelligently both in the field and in quarters. 

" 11. The Garrison Adjutant, Lieut. Chichester, 2-21st Foot, has had 
very hard work, and very well it has been performed. He is quite fitted 
for promotion. 

" 12. I can speak most highly of the efficient way and tact with which 
Deputy- Assistant Commissary-General Heygute acted as Camp Quarter- 
master in connection with the civilians, while, at the same time per- 
forming Commissariat duty. This officer is well fitted for higher rank. 

" 13. He was ably seconded by the Rev. G. Weavind, Wesley an 
minister, as a most energetic and painstaking sanitary inspector. This 
gentleman, by his acquaintance with the Dutch language, and tact, 
reiidered frequent assistance as an envoy with a flag of truce to the 

"14. To Captain (Major ?) Campbell, 94th Foot, great credit is due, 
in his capacity of Provost - Marshal, for the successful arrangements 
made for the repression of disorder and crime amongst such a mixed 
population as that of Pretoria, and for the safety of property left in the 
town. Martial law has been carried on without severity, with great 
discretion, and with the assistance of the local Landdrost acting in his 
ordinary magisterial capacity. 

" 15. Lieut. Lys, Pretoria Carbineers, referred to by Lieut.-Colonel 
Gildea as his orderly officer, has also come under my notice when acting 
in the same capacity to myself, during the time Lieut.-Colonel Gildea 
was disabled, and I can bear testimony to his usefulness, and the intel- 
ligent manner in which he carried out orders. As interpreter, in com- 
municating with the enemy, he was also of much assistance. 

" 16. From among the civilians, I would, in addition to the Rev. 
G. Weavind, whom I have already named, especially single out the Hon. 
H. Shepstone, Secretary for Native Affairs, for his advice concerning 

240 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, and supervision of the natives, and (together with Mr Melvill, Surveyor- 
General) management of the Intelligence Branch ; the Hon. J. Joubert, 
for exercising a general supervision over the arrangements made for 
the care of the live stock ; Mr J. Preller, Mayor of Pretoria, and Jus- 
tice Kotze, for their energetic and satisfactory performance of the duties 
assigned to them as ward-masters over the civilians. 

" 17. The Garrison Sergeant-Major, Sergeant- Major Armstrong, 2-21st 
Foot, showed great zeal, energy, and intelligence in the discharge of his 

" 18. The division of guns N/5 E.A., under Lieut. E. C. Hare, has 
rendered effective service ; as also have the two 7-pr. guns worked by the 
band of the 2/21st Foot, and the Krupp and Whitworth guns under the 
Transvaal Artillery. A gun went out daily for the protection of the 
cattle, and the woodcutting, mowing, or mealie-gathering parties. 

" 19. The 2d Company Royal Engineers, under the able direction 
of its officers Lieutenants Littledale and Commeline performed 
excellent service, in erecting defences, running up accommodation for 
the large influx of civil population, as well as taking their share in 
defending the position and making sorties. 

" 20. The excellent discipline and conduct shown by the 2/21st Foot, 
commanded by Captain Burr (in the absence of Lieut.-Colonel Gildea 
from wounds or other causes), is worthy of praise. The garrison duty 
fell heavy on this regiment, but was cheerfully performed, desertion 
and insubordination ceasing. 

" 21. The Pretoria Carbineers and JSTourse's Horse have worked ad- 
mirably. On them mainly has fallen the scouting and vedette duty, 
and they have proportionately suffered from the enemy's fire. These 
corps, together with the mounted infantry, contributed largely to the 
widening of the area of grazing and mowing ground, and the preven- 
tion of cattle raids on the enemy's part. 

" 22. The Pretoria Rifles, under Major Le Mesurier, R.E., quickly 
became an excellent body of 400 men, who rendered good service in the 
defence of the Convent and Jail Laager, and in taking a share in other 
siege work. 

" 23. The natives, too, merit a word of praise, for many were the 
messages and despatches which passed to and fro through the enemy's 
line, the bearers thus risking their lives in the event of detection. 

" 24. As regards those in command of the forts at the out-stations, I 
desire to mention the name of Captain Auchinleck, 2/2 1st Foot, twice 
wounded at different times while gallantly attacking the enemy or 
defending the fort at Rustenburg. When he was incapacitated from 
his wounds, 2d Lieut. H. Despard, 2/2 1st Foot, took up the command 
with energy and success. 

" 25. Captain E. S. Brook, 94th Foot, has successfully held the fort 
at Marabastadt, and 2d Lieut. "\V. Long. 94th Foot, that at Lydenburg 


against repeated attacks. The latter officer is said, from a Boer source, CHAP, 
to have been wounded. 

"26. From Br. - Lieut. - Colonel Winsloe, 2/2 1st Foot, and Major 
Thornhill, R.A., at Potchefstroom, I have not been able to hear since 
the first day of hostilities ; but as the fort capitulated on the 21st 
March, and the garrison have withdrawn to the Free State, no doubt 
the Major-General will have had reports, and be in a better position to 
judge as to the merits of these officers. 

"27. I enclose reports made to me by the Officer commanding the 
garrison of Pretoria, the District Officer Royal Engineers, the Senior 
Commissariat Officer, the Senior Ordnance Officer, and the Senior 
Medical Officer." 

Lieut.-Colonel Gildea was subsequently made a Queen's Aide -de- 
camp, with the rank of Colonel ; Major Le Mesurier received the brevet 
rank of Lieutenant-Colonel ; Lance-Corporal Henry Hampton, R.S. 
Fusiliers, was awarded the distinguished-service medal for the gallant 
conduct referred to in p. 136. 




CHAP. POTCHEFSTROOM, the old capital, is situated in one of 
the most fertile districts of south-western Transvaal, 
on the Mooi river, a stream which here suffices to 
turn half-a-dozen water-mills. Built on the plain 
which slopes up from the river to the distant hills 
to the west, the little town covers a good deal of 
ground about a mile and a half south to north, and 

O 7 

half a mile east to west. The houses many of a 
substantial description arc generally scattered, those 
of the well-to-do people standing in their own ground, 
about two hundred yards square, well studded with 
fruit-trees, and surrounded by hedges of cluster roses. 
The inhabitants, at this period, probably numbered 
between, two and three thousand. 

1 A very graphic account of the sturdy defence of this fort which 
will well repay reading has Leen given by Colonel Winsloe in ' Mac- 
niillau's Magazine' for April 1883, evidently grounded on the excel- 
lent description of the siege published by Lieutenant Rundle, R.A., in 
the 'Proceedings, Royal Artillery Institution,' No. 1, vol. xii., and 
reprinted in a separate form. The latter contains plates which tend 
still further to elucidate Lieutenant Rundle' s clearly written narrative. 
We have in the main followed the accounts given by these officers. 


The troops, consisting, as has been already men- CHAP. 
tioned, of two 9-pounder guns of N Battery, 5th 
Brigade, Eoyal Artillery ; two companies of the 
Eoyal Scots Fusiliers ; a detachment of the mounted 
troop of that corps ; and a few men of the Commis- 
sariat and Army Hospital Corps -- altogether, 10 
officers and 203 men, at the commencement of hos- 
tilities, had arrived at Potchefstroom, under Major 
Thornhill, R.A., 1 about the third week in November. 
Major Thornhill, however, being also in command of 
the Royal Artillery in South Africa, and required at 
headquarters and as the Administrator declined to 
withdraw the troops from Potchefstroom Lieut. - 
Colonel Winsloe, of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, who 
had recently joined at Pretoria from England, was 
despatched to relieve him. 

As there appeared no certainty of the speedy with- 
drawal of what was, at first, intended only as a flying 
column, Major Thornhill received instructions, a few 
da}'s after reaching Potchefstroom, to select a posi- 
tion outside the town and construct a redoubt suit- 
able for his force, and, in case the water-supply was 
liable to be cut off, to dig a well inside ; but the 
works being still incomplete at the time of Lieut. - 
Colonel Winsloe's arrival, on the afternoon of the 
12th December, the following three days were em- 

1 Mrs Thornhill remained at Pretoria it being at that time intended 
that the removal of the troops to Potchefstroom should be merely tem- 
porary and subsequently, with other officers' wives, went through all 
the discomforts of camp-life during the investment, in her case the 
more felt from anxiety for the safety of her absent husband, the fort 
being known to be hard pressed by the enemy. 




to raise 

CHAP, ployed, with little intermission, in their improye- 
ment. The camp was pitched round the intrenchment 
on rising ground to the west of and overlooking the 
town ; and the horses, mules, and oxen 76, 121, and 
147 respectively, or 344 animals in all were placed 
at some distance. But although the fort, in a meas- 
ure, slightly commanded the town, so thick were the 
trees and foliage about the streets and in the en- 
closed gardens, that the houses were more or less 

Major M. J. Clarke, C.M.G., had arrived in the be- 
ginning of December sent by the Administrator as 
his Special Commissioner. An attempt was made by 
a few of the leading inhabitants to raise volunteers, 
volunteers, to assist the military in the defence of the town in 
the event of its being attacked, but with little or no 
success, many of the townspeople fearing to lose their 
Boer customers, and others having no sympathy with 
the British. The only available men Major Clarke 
had to fall back upon, besides the military, were a 
few volunteers, with Captain Eaaf and his score of 
special constables enrolled the previous month for 
the purpose of arresting Mr Bezuidenhout and others. 

indications Lieut.-Colonel AViiisloe savs, in his narrative of 

of rebellion 

the sie^o. that he o-ave little credence to the opinion 

. . . . 

expressed by civilians that fighting was at hand; and 
remarks that the thoughts of himself and his officers 
were a good deal directed as to how they should 
amuse themselves and their fair friends. And yet 
at this time, short of actual conflict, the indications 



of the coming storm could scarcely have been stronger CHAP. 
than around Potchefstroom. The authorities there 
had been openly defied, and the arrest of the men 
concerned in such acts forcibly resisted by large 
armed bodies ; and, following on this, a mass meeting 
of armed Boers had assembled at Paarde Kraal, close 
to the road traversed by Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe on 
his way to reach his destination. It can only be 
supposed that that officer had fallen into the pre- 
vailing belief, so commonly entertained by English- 
men, that the Boers were not sufficiently in earnest 
to proceed to blows, their " bark, in fact, being worse 
than their bite." 

Major Thornhill, as shown by his reports made 
previous to Lieut. -Colonel Alfinsloe's arrival, enter- 
tained better founded and more serious apprehensions. 
As early as the 20th November he wrote : " Certainly 
it seems the general opinion now that if the arrest 
[of Bezuidenhout] is persevered in, the whole country 
will take up the cause ; " 1 and Lieutenant Bundle, in 
his description of the defence, tells us : " Early in the 
month of December it became apparent that the 
aspect of affairs was much more serious than had at 
first been imagined. The Colonial Secretary came 
down, but failed to arrange matters with the malcon- 
tent Boers, who had collected in large numbers at 
Loverskania." About the 12th of December it was 
known that the Boers had announced their inten- 
tion of retaking their old capital, and hoisting their 

1 See correspondence relating to Potcliefstroom, Blue-book (c. 2866), 
pp. 149-157. 

246 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, flag on the 16th December, this day being auspicious 
to them as the anniversary of their victory over 
the Zulu King Dingaan, and commonly known as 
"Dingaan's Day." On the night of the 14th De- 
cember Major Clarke was informed that Mr Bezui- 
denhout the same person whose resistance to in- 
equitable taxation has been alluded to as bringing 
on active rebellion had been in the town, and 
warned several families to leave for the border, as 
there would be fighting. The next morning he learnt 
that, at the mass meeting at Paarde Kraal, the South 
African Eepublic had been proclaimed, a Triumvirate 
appointed, and the old Volksraad reassembled. 

About noon on the 15th, two scouts came in to 
report to Major Clarke that a large body of Boers, 
fully armed, were approaching the town. Major 
Thornhill was at the time proceeding to take his 
seat in the post-cart to rejoin headquarters at Pre- 
toria, when he was sent back by Major Clarke at full 
gallop to warn the camp. Major Clarke appears to 
have followed, and caused the troops to be confined 
within their lines. The tents were quickly struck, 
horses placed in the ditch, the guns in pits two 
feet deep, at the north-east corner of the fort facing 
the cemetery prepared for action, and the parapets 
manned. It having been arranged unwisely, as 
events showed between Major Clarke and Lieut. - 
Colonel AYinsloe that the Court - house and jail 
should be held, garrisons were sent to these buildings, 
Captain Falls, with twenty-four men, to assist 
Captain Eaaf and seven or eight civilians in the 


defence of the former ; and Lieutenant Dalrymple- CHAP. 
Hay, with Deputy - Assistant Commissary - General 
Dunne and twenty-two men to the latter. 

The Boer advance-guard soon after rode into the Boer force 
market-square the main body remaining on the out- Potchef- 
skirts to the north of the town and the leader 
proceeded to occupy Borrius's printing-office, for the 
purpose of getting the Boer proclamation printed. 
Major Clarke failing in obtaining an interview with 
the Boer commander, then protested in writing 
against the printing of any seditious documents. In 
the evening Boer sentries were posted at the corners 
of the principal streets, and the townspeople were 
challenged. The manager of the Standard Bank, 
while walking towards the fort, was arrested and 
forcibly detained all night. 

It seems to have been expected that, having got Refugees 

i- i -\ -n 111 i from the 

their proclamation printed, the >oers would leave the town. 
town in the morning. Perhaps under this impres- 
sion, and fearing rough treatment at the hands of the 
armed men then patrolling the town, several civilian 
families sought refuge and were received into the 
fort, among others those of the Chevalier Forssman, 
member of the Legislative Assembly and Consul- 
General for Portugal, a very large landowner and 
his son-in-law, Dr Sketchley, the district surgeon. 

The Boers now had possession of the whole of Military 
the town, excepting the Court - house and jail- 
military posts which only proved a source of weak- 
ness and loss to our arms. These buildings were 400 

248 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, yards apart, hidden from view the one from tjie 
- other, through the ground between being intersected 
by houses, garden-walls, and trees. The Court-house, 
on one side of the market-square, was wholly unsuited 
for defence, surrounded as it was by houses, out- 
buildings, and shelter of various sorts, enabling an 
enemy to approach close up, while its roof was 
thatched. The jail a square building, whose walls 
'were 20 feet high, but with the upper parts built of 
sun-dried bricks, through which bullets could easily 
penetrate stood midway between the Court-house 
and fort, in comparatively open ground, the veld 
sloping up about 25 feet towards the fort, 360 yards 
off, crossed by a water-furrow, 40 yards from the 
jail, which supplied the western side of the town. 

The first At about 9 A.M. on the 16th December, while the 


officers were breakfasting in groups, in company with 
their guests, outside the fort, a patrol of eight or ten 
armed Boers, issuing from the north end of the town, 
rode slowly past, between the fort and jail, at a 
distance of 150 yards, turning off into the town as 
soon as they had passed the jail. This being re- 
garded as too inquisitive, a party of seventeen men 
of the mounted troop, under Lieutenant Lindsell, 
was sent to inquire their business, and acquaint them 
that no armed body could be permitted to approach 
so close to the fort. The Boers, however, had already 
turned into the town before the mounted infantry 
reached them, and on the latter attempting to follow, 
a dismounted Boer picket at the corner of the street 


fired some shots from behind a wall. Lieutenant CHAP. 


Lindsell, dismounting some of his men, caused the fire 
to be returned, which resulted in one of the Boer 
patrol being wounded. An ambuscade being feared, 
the " retire " was sounded from the fort, and the 
party brought back. 1 All then retired behind the 
intrenchment. Sacks of mealies were placed round 
the guns and ditch, in which were the horses ; and 
the part where the women were was similarly pro- 
tected. The Boers shortly after entered the market- 
square in force, and the attack became general. 

As the Boers, now rushing into the market- Surrender 
square, pressed forward on the Court-house, Major Court - 
Clarke, who had withdrawn inside, directed some 
warning shots to be fired over their heads. This 
had the effect of causing them to seek cover, 
from whence they opened a heavy fire. Captain 

1 In their " Second Proclamation " dated '23d December, Blue- 
book (c. 2838), March 1881, par. 20 the Triumvirate attempt to show 
that the first shot in the war was fired by the British, and that their 
doing so was brought about by the issue, previously, of a Government 
notice, forbidding armed bodies to approach within a mile of any 
town. Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe's account disposes of the charge of our 
having commenced hostilities ; and Colonel Bellairs's report of the 
17th December given in Appendix C proves that the notice in 
question was not received, or any instructions with regard to it 
issued to the troops, until the 16th after hostilities had already broken 
out at Potchefstroom, though that they had commenced was not known 
at Pretoria for some days after. The fact is, that the military were 
specially careful everywhere not to come into unnecessary collision 
with the malcontent Boers. Sir George Colley, when at Pretoria the 
previous August, had given expression to his feeling of the danger 
which might ensue from an incautious shot fired by the troops, by 
remarking that " the first shot fired on our side would raise the whole 

250 THE TEANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Falls was shot dead at the outset ; two soldiers were 


- wounded, and, later, a volunteer was killed and another 
wounded. Communication with the fort was kept 
up until the morning of the 18th, though at one 
time difficulty was experienced from its leading to 
too great exposure. Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe, on learn- 
ing this, signalled to have a hole made in the roof for 
the flags to be worked through, which was accordingly 
done ; and on the 17th, it appearing that the garrison 
was hard pressed, he suggested to Major Clarke the 
desirability of retiring after dark on the jail a 
distance of 400 yards he himself thinking, appar- 
ently, of evacuating the fort for that position at the 
same time, in consequence of increasing difficulty in 
obtaining water. Major Clarke, however, pointed 
out that this course would necessitate his abandoning 
his wounded, and was therefore directed to remain 
until next day. 1 Under cover of night the enemy 
succeeded in taking up a position in a garden close 
to the back windows of the building, and, in the 
morning, opened fire from three sides, finally getting 
up to within twelve feet of the loopholes, and throw- 
ing fire-balls on the thatched roof. The garrison, 
towards the end, was unable to return the fire. Then 
fearing that, if the roof got thoroughly ignited, not a 
man would escape, Major Clarke hoisted a white flag 
iu place of the Union-jack, and surrendered uncon- 
ditionally about 10 A.M. The British force was thus 
diminished by about thirty-five men, two-thirds of 
whom were regulars. 

1 See Blue-book (c. 2866), Xo. 78. 


The attack on the fort commenced by the enemy CHAP. 
opening fire from the walls and gardens of the town, 
and then throwing forward flanking attacks the left 
of which was, however, never developed. Their right 
came on boldly into the open, some riding forward 
until they got cover from the cemetery wall 360 
yards to the north-east. From this position they 
were dislodged by three or four shells ; and, similarly, 
the advance of the main body was checked ' and 
driven to the north end of the town. Besides the 
garrison of the Court-house which was supported 
by artillery-fire on portions of the town occupied by 
the enemy that of the jail was also hotly engaged. 
In twenty minutes the combined artillery and rifle 
fire had caused the enemy to retire from all sides, 
with the loss, it was believed, of many men and 
horses, their leader Assistant Commandant-General 
Cronje having had two horses killed under him. 

Some desultory firing went on during the 17th and 
morning of the 18th, until a white flag appeared 
hoisted at the Court-house. The cause for the latter 
seems to have been little anticipated at the fort ; but 
soon after, one of the leading Boers of the place Mr 
Erasmus appeared, under a flag of truce, bringing a 
letter to the commanding officer, which stated that 
Major Clarke, finding his position untenable, had 
surrendered, but that the lives of the garrison would 
be spared and good treatment given to the prisoners. 
It was hoped that the remaining posts would now 
also be given up. A truce was proclaimed until 
4 P.M. Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe replied to the effect 

252 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, that the surrender made by Major Clarke did not 
- affect the other positions held by her Majesty's 

Truce. Advantage was taken, on both sides, of the in- 

terval of truce, to strengthen their respective posi- 
tions. The gun-pits at the north-east corner of the 
fort were deepened and traverses erected. 

Boer The white flags on either side were still flying, 

when, a few minutes before four o'clock the hour 
named for the expiration of the truce and while 
many soldiers were exposed, the Boers poured in a 
A r olley, luckily only wounding one man, at the jail. 
but severely in two places. Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe 
declares that there was no excuse for this act of 
treachery. That officer also relates that "A few 
Boers carried explosive bullets, about the using of 
which frequent protest was made without effect. One 
of our men had the flesh blown from his arm by one 
of these shells, and their explosion was frequently 
heard at night." 

The enemy's line of fire was now 'so extended that 
it was difficult to do anything to reduce it, though 
it was observed that, after one or two shells being 
effectively directed to a particular spot, the fire from 
that point would perceptibly slacken. The jail 
especially became hotly engaged with large numbers 
occupying the houses behind it. 

The Court - house no longer forming part of the 
position, there was no longer the same necessity for 
holding the jail, which, besides, was now discovered 


to be untenable. Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe therefore CHAP. 


signalled, on the afternoon of the 18th, that the gar- 
rison should, on a given signal, displayed after dark, 
retire on the fort. Lieutenant Dalrymple - Hay 
effected the withdrawal noiselessly, under cover of 
a misty night, in skirmishing order, without attract- 
ing the attention of the enemy. One man had been 
killed and two wounded. The latter were carried in 
on stretchers made with rifles. The post could not 
have held out much longer, as, besides the upper 
walls built of only sun-dried bricks being easily 
perforated by bullets, the Boers fired through the 
lower loopholes at short range, with such accuracy 
that occasionally they could not be manned. The 
supplies of provisions kept in the jail had to be 

The want of water became at the outset a serious want of 


cause for anxiety. Some of the horses had been 
watered the first evening at the water-furrow towards 
the town, but only with losses and one man wound- 
ed. Then horses and mules, one-third at a time, 
were sent, with covering parties to protect their 
flanks and rear, to a spot above stream, called 
" The Willows," X.X.W. of the fort. The water-carts 
also made two trips during the night, the reserve 
barrels being so filled and a moderate supply of water 
secured, calculated to last the garrison three days, at 
three pints a-head each day. This allowance was 
found very inadequate by the soldiers, of whom, at 
this time, such continued exertion and hard labour, 

254 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, under a hot sun, was required. But even this source 


- of supply was cut off by the enemy moving in its 

Horses and On the 19th, the horses and mules had been with- 

mules lost. 

out water for forty-eight hours, and the men's supply 
was nearly exhausted ; but that night, a storm coming 
on, sufficient water was caught, by means of tar- 
paulins, waterproof sheets, &c., for men and animals 
until the 21st. Then the battery-horses many of 
them very fine ones and the transport-mules were 
turned loose, and galloping off to the water, were 
quickly driven away by the Boers. Only one favour- 
ite horse, belonging to one of the officers, was retained. 
Although twice wounded, it survived the siege. On 
the afternoon of the 21st, more heavy rain falling, 
enough water was again caught to last further three 

o o o 


Meanwhile the well inside the fort had been sunk 
to a depth of over thirty feet, sixteen of which was 
through rock, and yet only a nine-gallon cask of 
muddy water was obtainable each day. A second one 
was therefore commenced on the left front of the fort, 
and eventually a good and plentiful supply was found 
at fifteen feet depth. 

The oxen had strayed away and fallen into the 
hands of the Boers on the 17th, though many of them 
had already been shot by them. Their carcasses lying 
about caused most noxious odours, until pulled away 
by men who volunteered for this risky work, when 
the vultures ventured to approach and performed their 
usual useful scavengering. 


The presence of women and children in the small CHAP. 
fort only thirty yards square proved a very seri- 
ous embarrassment, it never having been intended iiAhffort. 
as a place for such refugees. On the night of the 
16th, after the first day's engagement, five addi- 
tional men and twenty - one women and children 
came out of the town and asked for protection. 
They w r ere taken in, the number, with those pre- 
viously received, being thus increased to forty- 
eight. Most, however all but about thirteen men 
and women soon found that it would have been 
better for them to have remained in the town and 
risked the ill-treatment they feared at the hands of 
hostile Boers. These, therefore, availed themselves 
of the permission given by the Boer general, and left 
the fort on the 24th December. One child had been 
killed and another wounded on that day. Later, 
towards the close of the sieo;e, when the Boers were 

O ' 

aware that provisions were running short, although 
permission was asked for the remaining ladies to leave, 
it was refused. 

Besides these civilians, there were, attached to the Natives in 
Commissariat and Transport Department, one Euro- 
pean civil conductor and sixty native drivers and 
leaders ; but thirty-nine of the latter left during the 
siege. On the 23d January, about thirty, of their 
own accord, attempted to escape through the Boer 
lines. While some were successful, others were shot, 
and a few came back unable to get away. 

The strength of the enemy at the commencement 

256 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, was about 800 men, increased by the 1st January to 

about 1400 ; but reduced afterwards, when reinforce- 

roy\ en ments left for Laing's Nek, though never falling 

rengt ' below 400 all well armed, generally with Westley- 

Richards rifles, though some carried double express 


The fort In the early part of the siege, while the parapet of 
the fort was still low, inconvenience was caused by 
the enemy firing from the trees and house-tops, and 
the guns were employed in clearing them with shrap- 
nel. The fort soon, from having been little more 
than a shelter-trench, became a really strong earth- 
work, with parapet eight to ten feet high, and the 
ditch outside proportionately deep. Only so could 
the scorching fire it had to contend against for so long 
a period ninety-five days have been withstood. A 
party was told off nightly for work, some repairs 
being always necessary, through damage caused by 
the enemy's fire an old ship-gun having been brought 
to bear sand-bags becoming rotten, and heavy rains. 
Many thousands of sand-bags were made, chiefly by 
the wounded and convalescents, from tents or any 
convertible material at hand. 

Rifle-pits for dark nights were constructed outside, 
with zigzag communication from the fort. 

The natives were utilised for baling the stagnant 
water out of the ditch, the stench from which became 
very foul, drainage from two sides having been found 

The burial of the dead had to be conducted outside 
the fort at night, the parties employed being often 


fired at. Sanitary parties employed outside were CHAP. 
similarly endangered. 


The morning of the new year was ushered in by New-Year's 

Day attack. 

a general attack on the fort. A 3-pounder smooth- 
bore ship-gun, firing a leaden projectile weighing about 
5 lb., was brought into action on the enemy's left, 
supported by rifle-fire from the whole line, the cem- 
etery being also occupied. The fire from loopholed 
walls, house-tops, and trees was very severe, and 
could only be checked in detail by the guns, the rest 
of the troops for an hour and a half remaining under 
cover, rifle in hand, in readiness to repel any attempted 
assault. The enemy's gun fired twenty rounds, several 
penetrating the parapet ; but it was eventually silenced 
by artillery-fire from the fort. About eight o'clock 
the fire slackened, and again resumed its normal 
desultory character. The anticipated assault was not 
attempted ; and yet it was considered that a deter- 
mined rush on the fort, with such numbers as were 
then available, would not have been a very difficult 
task, especially as the long grass around would have 
enabled men to creep up very close unseen. Repeated 
efforts were made to burn the grass, but it was always 
found too green. 

On the afternoon of the 3d January, the enemy's Town 

. magazine 

gun having been traversed behind a house, close to occupied. 
the jail, opened fire at a distance of 500 yards, on a 
small building of strong stone walls with an iron door, 
two hundred yards north-west of the fort, used as the 
town magazine, and holding some powder and ammu- 


258 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, nition. Twenty-one rounds were fired, directed solely 
against the magazine, which was hit and penetrated 
four times. The guns from the fort succeeded in dis- 
mounting the gun, and destroying the house and 
parapet behind which it was placed. The powder and 
ammunition not required were removed and destroyed ; 
and, in order to counteract the occupation of the 
cemetery by the enemy, the magazine was held as an 
outpost from this date. 

Night The enemy now began to approach by sap in steady 

earnest, and notwithstanding being harassed by artil- 
lery and rifle fire, made continued progress. The 
near wall of the cemetery an enclosure of about 300 
yards square had been held at night, with a cover- 
ing party as well lying beyond. It having been 
noticed that the enemy had been busy at work in 
this direction for several nights, it was determined to 
send a party to find out what was going on. One 
very dark night, the 7th January, an officer, Lieuten- 
ant Lindsell, and six men, taken from many who 
volunteered for the hazardous duty, went out for the 
purpose by a circuitous route, all in the fort remain- 
ing in readiness to cover their retirement. Proceed- 
ing slowly and stealthily along, they managed to 
creep up unseen to within five yards, and fire three 
volleys into the enemy working at a trench, before 
the latter recovered from the confusion into which 
they were thrown, or were able to find their rifles in 
the darkness. Then a hot fire ensued, but the brave 
little band regained the fort unhurt. As a safeguard, 


after this experience, the Boers advanced by double CHAP. 
sap, the inner trench, unseen from the fort, thus 
serving to protect the outer, in case of another sim- 
ilar sortie. 

By the 21st January the enemy had sapped to Day sortie. 
within 300 yards of the right and left faces of the 
fort. The attack was now further developed by the 
construction of detached trenches to the right and 
left rear. These works obliged further traversing. 
On the 22d, a third detached sap opened by the 
enemy, about 220 yards from and commanding the 
rear of the fort, threatening to become very incon- 
venient, Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe determined to send 
a party to storm it. Volunteers being called for, 
Lieutenant Dalrymple-Hay, one sergeant, and ten 
men were selected. The attack was carried out in 
broad daylight on the 22d, and the trench taken in 
two rushes. Covered by artillery and rifle fire, the 
party advanced across the open veld in the most 
spirited manner, lying down midway to recover their 
breath. Then rising and charging forward, the trench 
was taken, with four prisoners, two of whom w r ere 
wounded. The rest of its occupants, fourteen, ran ; 
but eleven are said to have been seen to fall when 
making their way through th long grass to the 
south end of the town. Three of Lieutenant Dal- 
rymple - Hay's gallant fellows fell immediately on 
quitting the fort, one of whom died the following day. 1 

1 Drivers Gibson and Paed, and Trumpeter Martin, seeing two of the 
party fall before reaching the sap, ran out from the fort and brought 

260 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. A truce followed, to allow of the removal of the 

Boer wounded, and the exchange of the four prisoners 

taken for four of the Fusiliers captured at the Court- 
house on the 18th December. Stretchers were lent, 
which were returned the next morning, with fruit for 
our wounded, and some carbolic acid asked for by the 

Lieut. - Colonel Winsloe well remarks with re- 
spect to this latter pleasing episode : " We thanked 
the Boer commander for his thought of our wounded, 
and so this affair ended. Civilities like these take 
the sting off warfare, and I must say for the Boers 
that they were never behind in such things. They 
are a fine, manly, sturdy race, such as I should like to 
live among. Who can blame them for fighting for 
their independence ? We, at least, did not do so." 

Through the exchanged prisoners, the garrison 
learnt that reinforcements were on their way from 
England and India, and the spirits of all were 
cheered by the prospect of relief soon coming to their 

No British flag had been seen at Potchefstroom 
since the surrender of the Court-house. The artil- 
lery now set to work to manufacture a substitute for 
the one lost. With the aid of a blue serge coat, con- 
tributed by an infantry officer, and the red and white 
linings from the cloaks of a subaltern and sergeant of 
artillery, a Union-jack was completed, and on the 

them in. All three were rewarded with the medal for gallant conduct 
in the field. 


23d January, amidst the cheers of the troops, hoisted CHAP. 
over the parapet of the fort. For two months it 
continued to fly, and had many bullet-holes to show. 
N Battery of the 5th Brigade already so distin- 
guished in previous South African wars retained 
possession of and brought to England this interesting 
relic. The Queen paid the battery the high compli- 
ment of causing it to be halted for her Majesty's per- 
sonal inspection on the 3d July 1882 when on the 
march, passing near Windsor Castle and then had 
this flag shown to her. 

Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe managed to get his report Outer com- 


of the occurrences of the 16th December past the tion. 
Boer lines the same day l Colonel Bellairs receiving 

1 From Major and Brevet Lieut. -Colonel R. W. C. Winsloe, Royal 
Scots Fusiliers, commanding troops, Potchefstroom, to the Deputy- 
Assistant Adjutant-General, Pretoria 


I6tk December 1880. 

" I have the honour to report that I have been menaced by the Boers 
since yesterday at 12 noon. This morning a party of Boers threatened 
the fort aboiit 9 A.M., and fired on the mounted infantry. It was ru- 
moured that a proclamation was to be read cm the market-square at 9 A.M. 
to-day announcing a Republic. Major Clarke, R.A., is in Landdrost's 
office with Captain Falls and about 20 volunteers under Captain Raaf. 
Lieut. Hay and D.-A. C.-G1. Dunne are at jail. Major Thornhill is 
with me here. At about 9 A.M. a party of the mounted infantry was 
fired upon, and they returned the fire. Almost simultaneously we 
heard firing from the Landdrost's office, which we occupy. The camp 
was shortly afterwards vigorously attacked on three sides, and this has 
continued more or less all day. The enemy have retreated repulsed on 
all sides, but stray shots have been fired all day into camp from the 
environs of the town, and firing has been going on continuously from 
the market-square and jail. It is impossible to hold more than the 
jail, Landdrost's office, and the camp with the present force, owing to 
this being a very straggling town. Not a volunteer is forthcoming, and 

262 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, it at Pretoria on the 21st ; but after that date, 


though many attempts were made to communicate, 
none of the messages sent out by natives reached 
their destination, nor was it known what became of 
their bearers. A European succeeded in getting as 
far as the Vaal, a dozen miles off; but, not being 
able to cross, returned in a half-starved condition. 
The only successful venture was made by two 
brothers Messrs J. and W. Nelson who, starting 
on the night of the 19th February, during a thun- 
derstorm, walked to the Vaal, passing three of the 
enemy's pickets, and swam the river near De Wet's 
Drift. Passing through the Orange Free State, by 
way of Kronstadt and Harrismith, they eventually 
on the 8th March after much hardship, managed 
to reach Sir Evelyn Wood's headquarters at New- 

The only communication which reached Lieut. - 

nearly the whole town are to all appearance on the side of the enemy- 
The enemy occupy the town, with exception of that portion covered by 
our fire. Communication with the Landdrost's office is very difficult, 
the whole distance each side being under fire of houses occupied by the 
enemy. Chevalier Forssman and family, and many ladies and children, 
have taken refuge in my camp. Probability of water-supply being cut 
off. Horses can only be watered and water obtained for our use under 
the enemy's fire. I am sinking tw r o wells (struck water in one of 
them), and so 1 don't anticipate much difficulty on that. I consider our 
position a very grave one, chiefly from the fact that the greater part of 
the population is undoubtedly hostile to us. . Unless affairs take a 
better turn shortly, I may be forced to take the field, as I am using my 
ammunition very fast. I am embarrassed by the presence of ladies and 
children. The soldiers under my command are behaving admirably. 
Major Clarke has asked me to open communication with him, but I am 
tillable yet to do so. Casualties as known to me up to the present are 
entered below." 


Colonel Winsloe, from outside the Boer lines, was a CHAP. 


message sent by Colonel Bellairs on the 22d Decem- 
ber. This appears to have been intercepted by the 
Boers, but eventually sent into the fort under a flag 
of truce on the 4th February. Its purport was, an 
acknowledgment of the receipt of Lieut. - Colonel 
Winsloe's report of the 16th December, an allusion 
to the Bronkhorst Spruit disaster, with instructions 
that the fort should hold out to the last, and finally 
destroy arms and guns. 1 The object of the Boer 
general in now forwarding this letter was to declare 
that, should the arms and guns not be handed over 
intact, in case of surrender, the lives of the garrison 
w T ould not be guaranteed. Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe 
replied that he had no intention of surrendering. 

Rigorous measures were adopted by Assistant-Gen- 
eral Cronje against all civilians suspected of aiding 
the British cause. Major Clarke, Mr Goetz the 
Landdrost and others were kept close prisoners. 
Commandant Raaf was kept handcuffed. Capital 
sentences, awarded by Boer courts - martial, were 
carried out during the siege against several of the 
inhabitants Messrs Van der Linden and C. Woite, 
and some natives accused of being spies, and having 
given information respecting the Paarde Kraal meet- 
ing to the Government. Others who had sided with 


us, and had occupied the Criterion Hotel and Schirk- 
erling's house adjoining the Court-house, firing on 
the Boers when the attack commenced, were sen- 
tenced to various terms of hard labour. For " mis- 

1 See ante, note, p. 169. 

264 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, deeds against the Transvaal Kepublic," many others 
were punished with hard-labour sentences or heavy 
fines, and natives flogged or shot. Both white and 
black men undergoing hard labour thus awarded 
were forced to work in the advanced trenches, where 
many were killed or wounded. 

Ruse of the On the 16th January the Boers attempted to obtain 
possession of the fort by a ruse. A letter said to 
have been prepared at their headquarters at Heidel- 
berg expressed in telegraphic cipher or Morse's 
alphabet, and purporting to emanate from Colonel 
Bellairs, was sent to the fort, informing Lieut. -Colonel 
"Winsloe that a column was approaching to his relief, 
and would arrive before Potchefstroom the following 
morning, when, on a given signal, he should sally out 
to join it, and together defeat the Boer force. The 
wording of the letter was, however, clumsily done, 
the ruse was seen through, and no attention paid to 
it. No signal was observed ; but next morning heavy 
rifle and cannon firing, heard in a wood a mile away, 
showed that the Boers were carrying out further their 
attempt at deception. They were afterwards seen 
returning to the town, some dressed in red coats, dis- 
comfited by the failure of their design, coupled with 
the drenching they got from a tremendous downpour 
of rain which was opino- on at the time. A shell was 

O O 

sent in their direction, which had the effect of quick- 
ening their movements. 

News of Towards the end of January, anxious looks began 
to be cast day and night towards the hill-tops around, 


in the hope that signals, giving notice of an advancing CHAP. 

column, might be discovered ; but any idea of such 

J first re- 

immediate relief was dispelled on the 4th February, verse. 

when a flag of truce brought a copy of the ' Staats 
Courant' Boer Government Gazette for the 2d 
February, giving an account of Sir George Colley's 
first reverse at Laing's Nek. 

The enemy's sam reopened fire on the 29th Enemy's 

gun re- 
January, 500 yards from the front of the fort, opens. 

Although shells were accurately exploded near its 
apparent spot, it could not be silenced. The cause 
for this was only discovered after the siege. The 
gun was loaded behind a house, the interior of which 
had been filled up with sacks of earth, thus giving 
protection from shell ; and it was run round the 
corner only when required to fire. Thick bushes on 
either side of the house also intercepted any view of 
the enemy's movements. From this day until the 
10th March, the gun was brought into action against 
the fort almost daily, though doing but little damage. 
Once, indeed, a shot entered an embrasure while the 
gun was being worked, killing one man and severely 
wounding another. 

A mutual good understanding arose between the Sunday 


two contending parties in their employment of Sun- 
days, which is thus felicitously related by Lieut. - 
Colonel Winsloe : 

" After the first few Sundays, at least during the 
day-time, little shooting went on, and by mutual 

266 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, consent we left each other alone. I always read the 
iv. . 

Church of England service myself in our little mess, 

while captains of companies read morning prayers 
to their men along the parapet. Our commissariat 
officer, who had been one of the brave defenders of 
Eorke's Drift, read the Roman Catholic service to the 
men of that Church. That we had a few sympathisers 
in the town was evident ; for on Sunday afternoons 
we often saw a whole family come out from behind a 
wall and wave their handkerchiefs to us ; and this we 
took to be a friendly greeting. We could hear the 
singing in the Dutch churches in the town on Sun- 
days ; and in the trenches the Boers used to collect on 
Sunday nights and sing psalms for an hour or so, sure 
of being undisturbed, as they always were." 

Further Beyond keeping up a continued fire by day and 

advance of J . . 

the enemy, night, and investing the fort sufficiently closely to 
prevent communication, the enemy, up to the 15th 
February, had not further developed their attack ; 
but on that night and afterwards increased energy 
was shown. Bags of wool were brought up, and 
their sap proceeded with, at a rate of from 20 to 30 
yards each night, until, on the 7th March, the desired 
point was reached, 100 yards from the magazine, 
and enfilading our sap unfortunately a straight 
one from the fort to it. Then a work was com- 
menced, about 12 feet high and 6 or 7 feet thick at 
the top, constructed with bags of earth, looking over 
the magazine and into the fort, against which the 
artillery could effect nothing. This was intended for 


the Boer gun, as also another which was said to be at CHAP. 


hand ; and the work was ready and the embrasures 
made for the purpose, when the capitulation took 
place a fortnight later. 

After the 15th February, too, the enemy formed a 
closer cordon of pickets, completely surrounding the 
fort. Lieutenants Bundle and Lean, and Deputy- 
Assistant Commissary - General Dunne, with small 
parties, endeavoured, on successive nights, to inter- 
cept their pickets, but failed : on the last occasion 
the enemy attempted to cut the party off, but it 
succeeded in re-entering the fort without casualty. 

During the night of the 9th March, the enemy 
constructed a line of trench, with a small work in the 
centre for their gun, 600 yards from the rear of the 
fort, and taking its front face in reverse. Fire was 
opened at daybreak, and continued until dark ; but 
although the gun fired 83 rounds at the fort, gen- 
erally with effect, little damage resulted. 

On the llth, fire was again resumed, the gun con- 
tributing 52 rounds during the day. One ball pitched 
into a tent with wounded men, and so injured two 
that one died a few days afterwards, and the other 
had to have an arm amputated. 

As a means of ensuring accuracy of rifle-fire, espe- 
cially by night, the enemy employed logs, two feet 
long, cut from trees, with a place cut as a rest for the 
rifle-barrel, narrow at one end and gradually widen- 
ing to eight inches at the other. The rifle was then 
adjusted so as to sweep the parapet of the fort, the 
loo; at the same time serving as excellent shelter. 

2G8 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Six ladies had unfortunately remained in the fort 
after the return of the remainder of the women and 
ugees. rei children to the town on the 24th December. Their 
condition during the long siege could not be other- 
wise than most deplorable. They had arrived with 
only what they stood in, and had to endure dangers, 
hardships, and sufferings, such as very rarely now- 
adays fall to any women. Nevertheless their be- 
haviour, under these extraordinary circumstances, was 
courageous and uncomplaining to the end. Although 
the more or less underground existence they led 
enabled them to escape, almost wholly, being injured 
by the enemy's fire only one being slightly wounded 
when attempting to take a little exercise yet one 
of their number. Mrs Sketchley, succumbed to an 
attack of enteric fever. 

Colonel Winsloe mentions a pathetic incident. 
" Five tents were not enough for the sick, and it was 
necessary to put up infectious cases elsewhere. To 
accomplish this we had to dig holes in the outside 
wall of the ditch, and there put the worst cases. A 
brother of one of the ladies died of typhoid fever, 
and it was sad to see the sister sitting all night in 
this hole watching her dying brother. AVe did all 
we could for them, but that was little enough." Mr 
and Mrs Forssman thus lost a son and a daughter 


during the siege ; while two more of their daughters 
were stricken with the same fever at the time of the 

The occupation and subsequent abandonment of 


the Court-house and jail as military posts had caused CHAP. 
loss of provisions. Then another portion tins of 
meat and biscuit, and bags of mealies, &c. having 
been utilised, on the emergency of the moment, for 
purposes of defence raising the parapet and mak- 
ing traverses soon became destroyed or damaged 
through the enemy's bullets and exposure to the 
weather. All the Commissariat cattle were lost at 
the outset ; but a temporary supply of fresh meat was 
obtained about the middle of February by two suc- 
cessful sorties, and fortunate capture of nine cows 
approaching the fort on the one occasion, and a few 
sheep on the other. Beyond this, no food-supplies 
were passed into the fort throughout the siege. 

The regular ration was reduced on the 19th Decem- 
ber, and still further from time to time. On the 
llth January, half a pound of mealies Indian corn 
intended for the horses and mules was substituted 
for the same quantity of failing biscuits ; and on the 
22d of the same month, this was made a daily issue. 
On the 15th March the only issue consisted of one 
pound of mealies and half a pound of Kafir corn 
millet with a quarter of a pound preserved meat on 
alternate days. Tea, coffee, sugar, salt, rice, biscuits, 
and all else had been consumed long before. The stock 
of fuel was finished by the loth January, and it then 
became necessary to break up the waggons, of which 
there were seventeen : all were burnt but five, which 
served as inner traverses. The ambulance-waggons 
and ammunition-carts two of each and three water- 
carts, were kept. 

270 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Lieutenant Bundle states that " Provisioned with 


only one month's meat (preserved) and six weeks' 
bread -stuff, the garrison had held out for three 
months with the assistance of mealies, which were 
eventually the only food left, and which were now 
beginning to fail us, being half rotten from expo- 
sure and wet. For three months the men had been 
exposed to the effects of the weather, with only such 
cover as they could obtain from shelter made of water- 
proof sheets, &c. One day they were baked by the 
sun, the next they were soaked with the rain, which 
fell in torrents for about two months. Often the 
men had to sleep in water ; and this, combined with 
want of food, had necessarily produced dysentery and 
enteric fever, from which officers and men suffered 
alike. Three cases of scurvy had broken out." 

On the 20th March, all that remained were 1600 
11). whole mealies and 5006 Ib. whole Kafir corn, all 
damaged, with a few pounds of preserved meat, &c., 
reserved for the sick. 

A suspect- On the 8th March, after dark, a Boer came in, or 

ed Boer . .' 

*i>y. allowed himself to be captured near the magazine. 

At first lie could scarcely speak for fear ; but present- 
ly, apparently to propitiate those at whose mercy he 
now was, he indicated that lie was coiled over from 
head to foot with rolls of tobacco. He was quickly 
turned round and round until quite giddy, and the 
tobacco unrolled and distributed all round. The 
want of tobacco had been long felt among the soldiers. 
Sonic had contrived to make a smoking mixture of 


tea-leaves and coffee-grounds, as long as these lasted, CHAP. 
and then of mealie-leaves. 

Being deemed a spy, the man was kept chained 
to the wheel of a waggon by night, though allowed 
greater freedom by day. When examined by one of 
the refugees, acting as interpreter, he disclosed some 
matters which were found to be correct among 
others, of the intended general attack, which took 
place two days afterwards. 

On the 17th March, Lieut..- Colonel Winsloe, feel- 
ing that matters were coming to a crisis, and that 
want of food would soon oblige capitulation, deter- 
mened to make use of the supposed spy, and accord- 
ingly offered him a hundred pounds to go into the 
town and return with the latest intelligence. The 
man got there, the preconcerted signal being given 
the following morning from a house on the outskirts 
of the town, which had been previously pointed out. 
He returned to the fort during the next night ; and 
as the report he made indicated that the garrison had 
no hope of relief, a consultation took place, when all 
were of opinion that there was but one line to take. 
There was little more to eat, and the sick were dying 
from want of proper nourishment. 

At sunrise on the 19th March, Lieut. - Colonel 
Winsloe sent out a flag of truce with a letter to the 
Boer commander, proposing a meeting. This was 
agreed to, and held at noon in a marquee pitched 150 
yards from the fort. A written agreement, ready 
for signature, was handed to Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe, 

272 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, the terms being to the effect that, with exception of 
iv. . 

the officers, who were to be free and keep their arms, 

all the rest were to be prisoners of war, and every- 
thing in the fort surrendered. All conditions pro- 
posed by Lieut. - Colonel Winsloe were negatived. 
Nothing could be settled, so it was agreed to meet 
again at the same time the following day. Lieut. - 
Colonel Winsloe appears to have heard of the armistice 
made by Sir Evelyn Wood on the 19th, and to have 
written to General Cronje on the subject, who ad- 
mitted the fact, and added that he intended to carry 
the armistice out according to his orders, which, how- 
ever, he did not specify. 

On the 20th another meeting took place, and, after 
much negotiation, an agreement was arrived at. The 
terms arranged were, that the troops should march 
out with the honours of war and their flag flying ; 
the civilians 11 Europeans and 29 natives being 
allowed to accompany them into the Orange Free 
State, all agreeing not to serve again during the war ; 
officers to retain their weapons, and both officers 
and men their private property ; guns and rifles to 
be surrendered, but the ammunition for both to be 
handed over to the custody of the President of the 
Orange Free State, for return after the war. These 
conditions were signed the following day. 

Great kindness was shown by the Boers, and every 
assistance given in procuring provisions for the gar- 
rison, and medicine and comforts for the sick, the 
moment hostilities ceased. Gifts of every kind were 
showered upon them, no soldier going away empty- 


handed. One Boer sent fifty ducks to the sick and CHAP. 

wounded, of whom there were respectively eight and 

fifteen. Lieut. - Colonel "Winsloe and the officers 
were entertained at dinner at the hotel by General 
Cronje and his officers ; and other invitations were 
pressed upon them. 

On the morning of the 23d, the waggons having 
been packed the previous night, the troops evacuated 
the position, and marched out with the honours of 
war, their flag flying and their bugles sounding. At 
the water - furrow, they were received by the Boer 
force, " a fine soldierly lot of men, in number 
about 400," remarks Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe ; while 
Lieutenant Rundle declares that " every mark of 
respect was shown by the Boers to H.M. troops, and 
neither by sign nor word was any discourtesy shown 
them whilst marching through the town. In short, 
the courtesy shown by the Boers after the cessation 
of hostilities to those who a few days before had been 
their enemies, could not have been exceeded by any 
European nation." 

Marching slowly through the Orange Free State, Departure 

~rr i n TT i T f ^ e S ar " 

by way ol Kronstadt and Jtiamsmitn, Lieut.- rison. 
Colonel Winsloe and his party reached Ladysmith, 
in Natal, on the 2d May, when they once more got 
the shelter of tents, a luxury they had been without 
for nearly five months. 

The casualties resulting to the troops had been one our losses. 
officer and twenty-one men killed or died of wounds, 
four men of disease, and five officers and forty- 


274 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, six men wounded. Of the foregoing, one man was 
wounded three times, and three men twice. Six 
natives were wounded in the fort. 

Boer losses. As regards the enemy's losses, Lieutenant Bundle 
speaks thus, and Lieut. - Colonel Winsloe similarly : 
" Of the Boer casualties during the siege it is impos- 
sible to form any accurate estimate. They themselves 
will only confess to one or two killed and twenty 
wounded. There can, however, be little doubt that 

their total in killed and wounded was little short of 

two hundred, as many as fifteen burials being known 
to have taken place at one time. The Boer leaders 
in Potchefstroom, as in other places, were careful to 
conceal their losses from their men ; and, until they 
dispersed to their homes, the Boers themselves did 
not know their true loss." 
District The resolute little garrison elicited the following 

n * i 1 

well-deserved District Order from Colonel Bellairs : 

" PRETORIA, 8th April 1881. 

" The fort at Potchefstroom capitulated on the 21st March, 
but only when its garrison was reduced to extremity, and 
after as brave a defence as any in military annals the troops 
marching out with the honours of war, and proceeding through 
the Orange Free State to Natal. The sterling qualities for 
which British soldiers have been renowned have been bril- 
liantly shown in this instance during a long period of priva- 
tion, and under very trying circumstances. 

" Colonel Bellairs begs Lieut. -Colonel "VVinsloe and the 
oiliccrs and men under him to accept his thanks for the proud 
and determined way in which they performed their duty." 

The capitulation made by Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe 


was subsequently cancelled, it having been agreed CHAP. 
that the Boer Commandant at Potchefstroom had 

committed a breach of Schedule III. of the agree- tion can- 
ment entered into for an armistice on the 6th March, 

inasmuch as he did not communicate the conditions 
thereof to the British commander immediately on re- 
ceipt the 12th or 13th. 1 

The conditions of the armistice were certainly most 
curious. As regards Potchefstroom and the other 
British posts in the Transvaal, the eight days' armis- 
tice was not to commence until subsequent to the 
arrival of the convoys sent from Natal with eight 
days' provisions to each garrison. Though, therefore, 
the agreement was made at Laing's Nek on the 6th 
March, and led at once to a cessation of hostilities 
between Sir Evelyn Wood and General Joubert, it 
had no such effect elsewhere on the notification of the 
armistice being made. Had General Cronje fully 
carried out the conditions, and notified them to 
Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe on the 12th, fighting would 
not have been thereby stopped. The only difference 
would have been that the garrison might possibly 
have endeavoured to hold out somewhat longer, in 
the hope that the convoy, with eight days' provisions 
despatched on the 7th, but delayed by swollen 
rivers or other causes might still reach them in 
time. 2 

1 See Blue-book (c. 2050) of June 1881, Xos. 50 and G3. 

2 In recognition of their services, Lieut. -Colonel Winsloe was subse- 
quently made a Queen's aide-de-camp, with the rank of Colonel, and 
Major Thornhill received the brevet rank of Lieut-Colonel. 




CHAP. RUSTENBURG, a very small town, with the usual Dutch 
churches, Government offices, and school, hotel, sun- 
dry stores, and even a few buildings of two storeys 
not often met with in the Transvaal lies about seventy 
miles west of Pretoria, and the same distance north of 
Potchefstroom. The warmer climate and fertility of 
the district produces most sorts of tropical as well as 
many of the European kinds of fruit and plants. Its 
inhabitants, mostly of Dutch extraction, had shown 
a kindly disposition towards the military. A few 
months before hostilities, when the garrison w r as re- 
lieved, its commanding officer Captain Willoughby 
of the 2d Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers had pre- 
sented to him an engrossed parchment address, signed 
by the principal people, highly complimentary to the 
officers and men, and showing how well they had 
ingratiated themselves with all classes, and the excel- 
lent feeling which had subsisted between all parties. 
Fort and The fort an earthwork of about 25 yards square 


was placed between 600 and 700 yards from the 


town. In November 1880, in order to strengthen the CHAP. 

field column, then sent from Pretoria to Potchef- 

stroom, the garrison had been reduced by one com- 
pany, and, at the time hostilities commenced, only 
consisted of a company of sixty-two men of the 2d 
Battalion 21st Eoyal Scots Fusiliers, with a few men 
of the Commissariat and Hospital Corps, under the 
command of Captain Auchinleck, the other officers 
present being Second Lieutenant Despard and Surgeon 

When hostilities seemed imminent, the fort was Opening of 

,. - ... .. . hostilities. 

lurther strengthened, sand- bags being placed on the 
parapets, and small mines laid. To give greater scope 
to the defence, some military huts were also thrown 
down. On the 24th December, information reached 
the officer commanding that a force of 600 Boers had 
assembled ten miles off. The following day six 
of the Rustenburg Rifle Volunteers joined the troops 
in the fort, the remainder of the inhabitants staying 
in the town ; and on the 27th December the Boers 
entered and took possession of the latter. A flag of 
truce was sent demanding the surrender of the fort 
within an hour. Firing then commenced from the 
town at 1.30 P.M., ceasing at 6.30 P.M. The only 
damage which resulted was the loss of all the 
slaughter-cattle belonging to the garrison, together 
with six horses and two transport-oxen killed. As 
it became evident that the transport - oxen could 
no longer be retained, they, together with two horses, 
were turned loose at midnight. When effecting this 

278 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, the enemy offered some interruption, and volleys 
were exchanged. The civilian officer in charge of 
the volunteers had formerly suffered from sunstroke, 
and the excitement now caused by the siege opera- 
tions proved too much for him. He went completely 
out of his mind, and remained a raving lunatic a 
grievous encumbrance to the small garrison to the 
end of the siege, when, with his wife and family, 
who had remained in the town, he was removed to 

Progress of On the 28th December the enemy commenced a 
trench between the town and fort, 120 yards in front 
of the former, and about 550 yards from the latter. 
Walls were also loopholed, and houses placed in a state 
of defence. The fort was surrounded by vedettes, 
and communication with the exterior cut off. During 
the three following days the trenches were increased, 
and firing came from the direction of the town and a 
hill to the right of the fort, the garrison of which 
returned the fire on the 27th and 28th, but were after- 
wards content with reserving their ammunition for 
men or horses when good opportunities offered. 

On the 29th, Captain Auchinleck received a severe 
rifle-shot wound in the face, which necessitated his 
relinquishing the command of the fort, then taken 
over by Lieutenant Despard, until his partial recovery 
on the 10th January. 

On the 1st January, a letter from Mr H. P. Malan, 
Heidelberg, was sent in under a flag of truce, again 
demanding surrender, which, however, met with no 


different result from the previous one. For the next CHAP. 
six days a dropping fire was continued from the town 
and the hill on the right of the fort. 

On the 8th January a new feature was introduced A cannon 
into the enemy's attack a gun of very rough and interaction. 
primitive construction, made of coils of iron by an 
ingenious Dutch blacksmith, throwing a shot of about 
6| Ib. weight. This was first placed on a hill 2000 
yards away, and opened fire at 6 A.M. The result 
not proving satisfactory, it was, two hours afterwards, 
moved by oxen to a small hill 800 yards nearer 
to the fort. Forty-five rounds were fired from these 
two positions. At 11 A.M., the fire still proving in- 
effectual, the gun was dragged to within 600 yards' 
distance, when the fire from the fort silenced it after 
fourteen rounds. The enemy were then allowed to 
carry away three men who had been hit, under a flag 
of truce. A brisk fire was kept up from the town 
while the gun was in action. Several quiet days, 
with but few rifle-shots, followed. 

On the 12th, three civilians, carrying a white flag, Third de- 
approached the fort, and delivered a letter, again de- surrender, 
manding surrender. They begged for protection, 
asserting that, were they to return unsuccessful from 
their mission, they would be shot. They were then 
received into the fort. From them it was ascertained 
that the Boer force at that time numbered 220 men ; 
that their losses were kept quiet, but that one man 
was known to have been killed and several wounded, 
while many horses also had been killed. Besides the 
military, there were now in the fort nine civilians and 

280 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, one civil conductor, with seven natives attached to 

the transport department. Two more civilians, who 
had arrived from a farm seven hours' ride off, were 
likewise received into the fort on the 21st ; but three 
others from the town, who, the same day, sought to 
enter, were refused admittance. 

After the withdrawal of the Boer gun on the 8th, 
the enemy's rifle-fire continued for the remainder of 
the month intermittently, some days with only occa- 
sional shots, followed by others with a pretty con- 
stant fire. 

The weather had been wet during the first three 
weeks, but the last fortnight in January was fine. 
The health of the garrison remained good, and the 
spirits of the troops excellent, notwithstanding the 
drawback of only half rations from the commence- 
Despatches Several despatches had been received from Pretoria 

from Pre- 
toria, one dated 20th December, then news to the 9th, 

and again on the 25th January. The first received 
from Eustenburg at Pretoria had been sent on the 
20th January, and the account given of the defence 
elicited some complimentary remarks from the Colonel 
commanding the district. 1 

i\bruary. During February the enemy's fire continued to be 
of the same desultory character as before, and the 

" I congratulate and thank Captain Auchinleck and the troops under 
his command upon the energetic and successful defence made to the 
20th instant of the fort at Rustenburg, against the largely preponderat- 
ing force of rebels investing it. 

" From indirect sources it is reported that seven rebels had been 


fatigue-parties were occasionally interfered with in CHAP. 
going about their duties. There was every variation - 
of weather and extreme of temperature ; sometimes 
intense heat and thunderstorms by day, alternating 
with frost and strong cold winds by night. On the 
7th, the Boers altered the water-course and dammed 
up the stream, with the intention apparently the 
heavy storms flying about assisting of flooding the 
fort ; but, beyond making the garrison more uncom- 
fortable, they did not appear to have been successful 
in their project, and a few days later they turned the 
water back to its ordinary course. 

Early in the month trenches were made near 
Schmit's Farm, lying 800 yards to the right rear of 
the fort, but these were thrown down again about 
a fortnight afterwards. On the morning of the 4th Sortie. 
it was seen that another trench was in course of 
construction about 400 yards to the left rear of the 
fort. This being so much nearer, and likely to prove 
inconvenient, Captain Auchinleck decided to attack 
it. Taking nine men with him the same evening, he 
sallied forth after dark, and had reached within thirty 
yards of the work, when the party was challenged 
and fired on. Three volleys were fired into the 
trench, obliging its occupants to retire. A brisk fire 
then opened from all sides on the fort, which indi- 

killed, and that the gun, which occasioned no damage to the fort, and 
was so quickly silenced by the well-directed fire of Captain Auchinleck's 
company of the 2/2 1st Kegiment, has been withdrawn and sent else- 


Colonel Commanding Transvaal District. 
" PRETORIA, 2Sth Jan. 1881." 

282 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, cated that the enemy's vedettes were posted from 100 
to 200 yards apart, at distances varying from 400 to 
800 yards from the fort all round. The party then 
fell back. Captain Auchinleck had received a ball 
through his right elbow-joint a dangerous wound, 
which unfortunately led to permanent disablement 
of the limb. The receipt of the intelligence of this 
sortie was thus referred to in an order of the day by 
Colonel Bellairs : 

" PRETORIA, February 15, 1881. 

" The Colonel commanding greatly regrets to learn that 
while all is otherwise going on well, and the troops are 
bravely holding out at the fort at Eustenburg, Captain 
Auchinleck, 2d Bn. 21st Foot, has been badly wounded in 
the arm while intrepidly leading a sortie on the rebel trenches 
on the 4th instant. The services of a courageous and able 
commander, previously wounded in this campaign, have thus 
been temporarily lost to the gallant little garrison." l 

Another trench was thrown up during the month, 
at about 900 yards' distance from the fort, between 
the laager on the hill and Schmit's Farm. The laager 

O O 

also was enlarged and strengthened, and apparently 
there was some accession in numbers. 

Communication still continued to be kept up with 
Pretoria, though one native, carrying despatches to 
the fort, was believed to have fallen into the hands 
of the enemy. The health and spirits of the troops 
remained satisfactory the average daily number of 
sick being about seven per cent. On the 18th Feb- 
ruary, the garrison calculated that there was sufficient 

1 Captain Auchinleck subsequently received the brevet rank of Major 
in recognition of his services. 


preserved meat for fifty, and bread-stuff for ninety CHAP. 

The Boer cannon, after having been silent since the Boer gun 

IT -IT- f reopens. 

8th January withdrawn, it was rumoured, for repair, 
its breach having been blown out, and the gunners 
injured reappeared on the 3d March, and fired six 
rounds from the laager on the hill, without, however, 
touching the fort. Then the gun was again with- 
drawn until the 9th, when thirty shots were fired, 
only four of which took effect. Thirteen more rounds 
were fired on the 12th, when the gun again disap- 
peared for repairs. On this day it was seen that 
during the night the enemy had made another trench 
800 to 900 yards' distance from the right front of the 

On the 14th March the Boer Commandant sent in Notmca- 

ft /> ./>.- ../>.-. tion of 

a nag 01 truce, notifying that an armistice for eight intended 
days had been concluded between Sir Evelyn Wood 
and the Boer Commandant-General ; but, as this ces- 
sation of hostilities was not to have any effect at Rus- 
tenburg until the arrival of eight clays' provisions sent 
by Sir Evelyn Wood, the usual desultory firing was 
continued, and the gun was again brought into action, 
still without effect. The garrison were by no means 
satisfied as to the genuineness of the Boer notification 
of intended armistice, and many were inclined to sus- 
pect a deep trap on the part of the enemy. On the Peace. 
30th, however, all doubt on the subject was dispelled, 
the notification that peace had been made being- 
brought in by an English officer Lieutenant Eyder 

284 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, of the 60th Rifles from Sir Evelyn Wood's camp, 
some days before the waggon with provisions reached 
the place, or the eight days' armistice could have com- 
menced ! 

The health of the garrison, notwithstanding expos- 
ure and privation for a period of three months, con- 
tinued fair to the end. No fresh meat or stores had 
been obtained from outside until towards the close of 
the siege, when the intelligence and courage of a civil- 
ian in the fort, who went out for the purpose, was 
instrumental in passing an ox in through the enemy's 

The casualties of the little garrison had been few. 
Besides Captain Auchinleck twice so badly w T ounded 
only three men were wounded, two dangerously, 
and one slightly. 




MARABASTADT, a village of only five or six houses CHAP. 

> O J yj 

the owners of which were principally storekeepers, 
the first distant a mile from the last is situated in 
the northern part of the Transvaal, in the Zoutpans- 
berg district. In the early part of 1880 it was de- 
cided to create a military station in this far-away 
region 165 miles from Pretoria for the purpose of 
asserting the supremacy of the Government, and over- 
awing the surrounding large native population, esti- 
mated at between 300,000 and 400,000 in the Zout- 
pansberg, and about half the number in the Water- 
berg district. Captain Campbell, with two companies 
of the 94th Regiment the first British troops which 
had been through that part of the province reached 
the place in February. 

The site for the camp on the slope of a hill north- 
west of the village, and about 800 yards from the 
nearest house had been previously chosen by a staff 

1 Some of Captain Brook's despatches, giving accounts of the progress 
of the siege, appeared in the Blue-books. 

286 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, officer, and instructions given that the fort should be 

thrown up thereon. Accordingly, the fort was at 

once commenced, and everybody, feeling his own com- 
fort depended upon his industry, threw himself with 
a will into the work of completing it, and making 
bricks, mortar, &c., for the erection of houses and huts 
for officers and men. In due time the detachment 
had housed themselves, and had done more to render 
themselves comfortable than any of the other stations 
in the country, and that without extraneous assistance 
of any kind. The marked capacity and energy ex- 
hibited by all ranks in producing this result elicited 
deserved commendation from the general officer com- 
site of fort The site selected for the fort was, from the nature 


of the ground and surroundings, most unsuitable. 
All the officers are said to have been agreed on this 
point, and to have been of opinion that the best 
position would have been on the other side of the Sand 
Spruit, to the west of the village. After-experience 
fully showed that they were right. The station was 
inspected about three months later by Major-General 
Hon. II. II. Clifford, but no alteration was apparently 
deemed necessary ; perhaps none was made owing to 
the great labour which would have been thereby en- 
tailed on the troops, all their previous good work 
o'oinp; for nothing. 

i'Yeiiii.--s of When the troops first arrived in the district, the 

tank Boers showed anything but a friendly feeling towards 

them. Their only previous experience of Englishmen 


had perhaps been of traders, who had probably made CHAP. 
the most of them. But when they found that we 
paid them well for whatever we required, and showed 
them common civility, their demeanour gradually 
altered, until in a few months the military were on 
the best of terms with all around. The officers were 
well known to all the Boers in the neighbourhood. 
With a fair amount of sport, shooting, riding, driv- 
ing, &c., the days were passed as well as could be 
expected in stich an out-of-the-way uncivilised part. 
Nothing serious occurred to disturb the quiet mono- 
tony of this life until the end of November. There 
was certainly about the period of the change of Min- 
istry in England an unsettled feeling among some, 
who expected that the new Government would annul 
the annexation ; but when it was officially announced 
that this would not be done, the feeling apparently 
subsided. Towards the end of November, though, 
rumours came of lawless proceedings having taken 
place in the Potchefstroom district, nearly 300 miles 

On the afternoon of the 29th November, a special Garrison 
messenger arrived from Pretoria, with orders for one 
company, under Captain Campbell, to march at once, 
as light as possible, to be stationed, as a temporary 
measure, at Pretoria. Within a few hours Captain 
Campbell was on the road, with about GO men and a 
mule - waggon ; and. as previously mentioned, made 
such o-ood haste that he reached Pretoria without 


molestation in ten days. 

The garrison now left consisted of only about GO 

288 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. men. under the command of Captain E. S. Brook, with 


two other officers Lieutenant F. G. W. Jones, and 
Surgeon Harding, A.M.D. The position was at once 
further strengthened, and a store of wood collected, 
brought from the wood-bush about ten miles off. But 


while such prudent preparations were made for pos- 
sible contingencies, it was considered most improbable 
that the troops in this outlying part would be affected 
by Boer disturbances, which, it was thought, would 
be confined to the Pretoria and more southern dis- 
imprudent Notwithstanding such peaceable anticipations, the 

action of . -IT -IT i i -i 

civil an- quiet oi the neighbourhood was soon rudely disturbed 

thorities. - 1 . . . J , 

through the action of the civil authorities, acting 
under orders from Pretoria, in arresting three Boers- 
Roy Barend Vorster, Christoffel Snyman, and Franz 
van Dyk on charges of having urged the native 
chief, Maleppa, to join the Boers in turning the 
English out of the country. Mr Dahl, the Native 
Commissioner of the district, had instructions from 
Pretoria to hold a sort of preliminary inquiry into 
these charges, and he is said to have been privately 
informed that on no account were the accused to be 
allowed out on bail. The Native Commissioner, the 
Landdrost of the district, and the officer commanding 
the troops were accordingly associated together, and 
the investigation was held before them, about the 
25th December, in a tent pitched for the purpose 
three hundred yards from the fort. The action 
taken by the Government in this matter had created 
considerable excitement in the district. At an early 


hour a large number of Boers were on the move, CHAP. 
travelling along the roads towards the camp, the 
officer commanding having previously notified, through 
the Landdrost, that they would be allowed to be pre- 
sent at the Court, provided they were unarmed, and 
did not bring their waggons within a mile of the 
fort. It was afterwards ascertained that they had 
left their arms at a farmhouse two and a half miles 
distant. About a hundred Boers were present. The 
investigation being proceeded with, a good many 
natives were examined, but their evidence against 
the prisoners was wholly insufficient to prove the 
charges. The three accused men were then remanded 
back to confinement ; but Captain Brook having 
strongly advised the Native Commissioner to release 
them, that official finally acquiesced. Bail was, how- 
ever, taken, and they joined their friends, when all 
left with every sign of good feeling. Captain Brook's 
tact, common-sense, and decision were well shown in 
thus arranging what was near becoming a serious 

The Zoutpansberg races, which had been got up by commence- 
the officers and some others, were held on the other hostilities, 
side of- the village on the 29th December. For some 
time the soldiers had not been allowed out of camp, 
and on this day they were all kept in the fort. All but 
the last race a hurdle-race between Captain Brook 
and Dr Harding had come off, and the start for this 
was just about to be made, when a man from the camp 
galloped up and gave Captain Brook a few lines from 






Lieutenant Jones, who had remained behind on duty. 
Their purport was of such a grave nature that Captain 
Brook at once rode to the camp. There he found a 
cipher despatch had just been brought in from Pretoria, 
giving an outline of the Bronkhorst Spruit disaster, 
and directing him to be prepared for attack, to hus- 
band his ammunition, and get in supplies. 1 

Captain Brook at once issued a proclamation of 
martial law, and called upon all loyal subjects to come 
to the fort and assist in putting down the rebellion. 
His appeal was well responded to. The races had for- 
tunately brought together a good many Englishmen, 
and all who could manage to join came in about 
thirty. Lieutenant Gleniston of the Police and Mr 
Stewart were despatched respectively to Captain 
Thompson, commanding the detachment of the Trans- 
vaal Mounted Police about fifty Bastards then 
stationed at Wood-Bush, forty miles further north 

1 The following were some of the early messages despatched to Mara- 
bastadt (see Blue-book [c. 2866], p. 158) : 

''December 23. Be prepared for attack. Husband ammunition; 
concentrate stores and get in supplies. Communication around Pretoria 
cut off. Potchefstroom invested. 94th, from Lydenburg, taken pris- 
oners, after heavy losses. Reinforcements from Natal expected. 

" December 29. Received letter of 17th. Potchefstroom Fort holds 
out. Three companies 94th and one of 58th at Standerton ; reinforce- 
ments coining from Natal. 94th losses, coining from Lydenburg, very 
heavy ; 75 dead, 79 wounded Nairne, M'Swiney, Harrison (dead); 
Anstruther, Hume, Carter (dangerously wounded). Boer losses not 

" January 2. Forts at Potchefstroom, as far as known, holding out; 
reinforcements from Natal coming up. Rebels took large quantities 
of clothing and accoutrements from 94th ; this may be used for pur- 
poses of surprise. Great caution should be exercised in identifying 
armed bodies in our uniform before allowing approach. 

" W. B." 


and to the Native Commissioner, residing some miles CHAP. 


off, at Klipsdam, warning and directing them to con- 
centrate with their men, arms, &c., at the fort. Cap- 
tain Thompson acted with rapidity and circumspec- 
tion, and brought his detachment safely in on the 
following morning. Mr Dahl, through a wrong inter- 
pretation of the order delivered, thought he would do 
better to remain where he was, and, in consequence, 
was taken prisoner the next day with all his arms and 

The receipt of the cipher message caused renewed 
energy to be given day and night towards strengthen- 
ing the fort an intrenchment of 25 yards square. 
A well was also commenced, but the nature of the 
soil rendered the work very laborious and tedious. 
All provisions found in the stores and houses in the 
vicinity were seized for the use of the garrison, as also 
supplies of forage, vegetables, &c. The Boers were at 
this time in two laagers one at Sand Spruit, eight 
miles distant, and the other at Botha's Farm, six 
miles. They did not attempt to interrupt these pro- 
ceedings, perhaps not being then sufficiently organised. 
On the llth January the Boer Commandant, Barend 
Vorster, sent a letter to Captain Brook to the effect 
that, unless he ceased from further seizures of corn, 
the property of the Burghers, steps would be taken to 
stop, what he termed, such unnecessary acts. The 
following day the Landdrost of the district received 
at the hands of an armed party a letter from the 
Boer Government, dated Heidelberg, 6th January, 
desiring him to surrender his keys, whereupon his 

292 THE TEANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, office and some public moneys were taken forcible 
possession of. 

Skirmish. On the 19 tli January a mounted patrol fifteen 
police under Captain Thompson, and ten volunteers 
under Conductor Stott of the Commissariat staff- 
were sent to reconnoitre the Sand Spruit laager. When 
five miles out, they were suddenly attacked by a 
greatly superior force. The police, who were in ad- 
vance, were driven in, leaving one man killed and 
two wounded in the hands of the enemy. Two others 
were also wounded. The party then fell back on the 
camp, the retirement being covered by the volunteers. 
Several Boers were said to have been hit. The Boer 


Commandant afterwards sent to inform Captain Brook 
that he could send a cart, with a flag of truce, to re- 
move the dead man ; that the two wounded prisoners 
would be properly cared for ; and that he, Captain 
Brook, must keep quiet for the future, or stand the 
consequences. From this message it would seem as 
if the Boer Commandant did not at this period desire 
to make any direct attack on the garrison, provided 
the latter did not move out. 

LOSS of After this skirmish, however, the enemy's patrols 

horses. approached nearer. The high ground north of the 
camp admitted of any number concealing themselves 
during the night, in readiness to surprise or attack the 
vedettes and outlying parties proceeding from the 
cam}) at daybreak to take up positions for the protec- 
tion of the cattle and horses when grazing. These 
outposts were frequently thus driven in, and the 


grazing-ground restricted. About the third week in CHAP. 
February the police horses and most of the oxen were 
captured. Our vedettes were surprised and fell back, 
when, with almost incredible celerity, the oxen were 
driven off, and some of the horses having been hit by 
the enemy's fire, the whole stampeded. After this 
the enemy occupied the ridges of the hills command- 
ing the fort, and closely invested the position, patrol- 
ling constantly around out of range. Fire was kept 
up on the fort during the day. 

About the end of February, the enemy threw up Boer 
earthworks on commanding sites at 800 yards' dis- 
tance. These were, with the exception of one on 
what was called the Signal Kopje, open to the rear, 
to enable their being fired into from trenches placed 
on positions further back. In case of serious attack, 
the defenders were to deliver a rapid fire, and then 
retire on their second line. The Boers were well 
aware that, even if we took one of their front posi- 
tions, we should not be able to continue to hold it, 
and anticipated inflicting greater loss by falling back 
and drawing- us on. 


As soon as it became dark, sentries were pushed Method of 
out from the fort towards the enemy's positions, sentries, 
advantage being taken of any slight rise in the 
ground or other covering offering. This was also 
the Boer method of guarding against surprise, their 
sentries lying down in pairs. For night defence the 
Boers were supplied with elephant guns loaded with 
loopers, formidable weapons at close quarters. 

294 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. On the 17th March, two old ship carronades the 


one a 6-pounder and the other a 3- or 4-pounder 
non. ' which had been discovered on Mr Dahl's premises, were 
brought into action. The round-shot used, being 
made of beaten iron, taken from the Ersterling Gold 
Mining Company's works, must have occasioned con- 
siderable labour in their manufacture. Consider- 
ing the nature of these guns and their projectiles, 
the Boers served them with fair accuracy, and 
such concealment that it was found impossible to 
silence them. Working -parties had to be employed 
by reliefs through each night to repair the damage 
done, and render the weak points of the fort safe. 
Sergeant-Major Freeth of the police was mortally 
wounded by one of the round-shots the first day the 
cannons opened ; but from then to the close of the 
siege the garrison were so well kept under cover that, 
though there were many narrow shaves, no one was 
seriously injured by them. A man was kept con- 
stantly on the look-out. As soon as he saw smoke 
from the discharge of a gun, he blew a warning note 
on a railway whistle, when immediately all sought 
cover. Many casualties would have occurred had not 
this order been rigidly insisted upon. Latterly, 
taking cover on such a warning became so much a 
habit, that, after fighting was over, much laughter 
was caused when, on a man blowing the whistle, 
numbers ran for cover. 

As Captain Brook was able to keep his men suffi- 
ciently sheltered from the Boer fire, he did not carry 
out an attack, at first projected, on the battery. 


With the object of maturing such a plan, he had CHAP. 
sent out some of the Bastard Police at night to obtain 
information of the nature of the position. These men 
managed to pass through the enemy's lines, and to 
lie hidden the following day on the range of hills to 
the south of the fort, taking observations, and then 
return after dark. The idea was thus formed to pass 
out similarly a portion of the garrison during the 
night, and at daybreak to surprise the battery by an 
attack in front and rear. The main difficulty would 
have been to have escaped the observation of the 
enemy's patrols, so constantly moving from one posi- 
tion to another ; but it was thought that the sortie 
could have been successfully accomplished. 

The natives of the district were most loyal. At Natives. 
the commencement, when the intelligence arrived 
that hostilities had broken out, Captain Brook had 
summoned all the chiefs representing some 50,000 
fighting men and had ordered them to keep quiet. 
They could not, however, understand why they were 
not allowed to help us in fighting the Boers. Being 
further informed that the garrison required corn and 
mealies, supplies were run in by natives at night. 
Frequent messages passed by their agency to and 
from Pretoria ; once or twice, though, failing through 
capture. Attempts were also made to communicate 
with the garrison at Lydenburg, but it was believed 
without success. 

The well was sunk to a depth of 35 feet. Owing Water- 
to continuous rains it was frequently filled to the 

296 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, top, but it was always somewhat uncertain whether 
the supply would continue sufficient when the dry 
weather set in. Water was, however, obtained 
throughout from the Spruit, flowing two hundred 
yards from the fort. Fatigue-parties, with all avail- 
able buckets, covered by armed parties, were sent out 
nightly, when least likely to attract observation. 
Although often these parties must have been heard 
at work, yet no determined attempt was made to 
stop them. 

Sunday was the only day when water was allowed 
to be used for ablutionary purposes, and then but one 
barrel for about 140 persons. Almost by mutual 
consent there was a cessation of firing on that day. 
Once or twice a volley had been fired from our side, 
which was returned ; but if let alone, the Boers would 
remain quiet. 
Fresh- Fresh meat was issued throughout, the last beast 

meat sup- . ..... 

ply. having been killed the day the news 01 the peace was 
received. Previous to the investment a cattle-kraal 
had been built, with stone walls five feet high, 
close to the fort. This sheltered the oxen which 
had not been captured by the Boers in February, 
and they were kept alive by feeding them with 
fora ore. 


sanitary The sanitary arrangements were, of course, of vital 

conditions. . 

importance the men being cooped up in such a con- 
fined space. The proof how well they were carried 
out under the supervision of Surgeon Harding was 
the fact that the only patients were those who had 
been wounded. 


On the 22d March, the Boer Commandant sent a CHAP. 

letter, under a nag of truce, proposing a meeting 

between himself and Captain Brook, in order that armistice 

i -11 -11111 agreement. 

he might acquaint the latter with orders he had 
received from his Government. A meeting accord- 
ingly took place, midway between the two positions, 
when Captain . Brook was informed of the armistice 
concluded between Sir Evelyn Wood and Commandant- 
General Joubert, and was given a copy of its terms. 
Captain Brook, however, told Assistant Commandant- 
General Vorster that, as the papers w T ere not signed 
by the English General, he was unable to take the 
information as authentic. The parties thereupon 
returned to their respective positions, and the usual 
firing recommenced on both sides. 

On the 2d April, after an unusually hot fire had Peace 


been going on through the morning, a large party 01 
mounted Boers, headed by a man carrying a white 
flag, w T ere seen approaching by the road. Halting at 
a distance of three-quarters of a mile from the fort, 
the flag of truce advanced alone. Firing thereupon 
ceased, and Mr O'Reilly was sent out to meet the 
Boer messenger. He quickly came back with the 
intelligence that Captain Sampson, late of Nourse's 
Horse, had arrived with despatches from Pretoria, to 
the effect that peace had been made. White flags 
were now hoisted on all the Boer positions, and the 
troops began to exercise their limbs by walking and 
running about, a novel sensation to them in broad 
daylight. A meeting took place in the afternoon 
between the officer commanding the garrison and the 

298 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Boer leaders at Mr Mare's house in the village, when 


the English despatches and orders were read. But as 
the Boer General had not received any similar com- 
munication from Commandant-General Joubert, he 
declined to move from his positions. Next day, how- 
ever, his orders having arrived, the Boers dispersed. 
The terms of peace were received by the garrison with 
disappointment, and by the English volunteers with 
Evacuation On the 13th April, the order having arrived for the 


bastadt. withdrawal of the company of the 94th Eegiment, 
transport waggons and oxen were hired of their late 
enemies ; and the troops, accompanied by the police 
and most of the volunteers, left two days later for 
Pretoria, They reached that station on the morning 
of the 26th a good march for men who could not 
boast of a sound pair of boots amongst them. 

Casualties. The casualties on our side during the siege amounted 
to thirteen five killed and eight wounded. Until 
the news of peace came and liberated the garrison 
from their hiding-places, the Boers had been under 
the belief that their shot and bullets, which they saw 
so constantly dropping into the little fort a space 
of only 25 yards square must have had the effect 
of killing or wounding most of the defenders ; and 
they had been confirmed in this view from hear- 
ing as they asserted the garrison nightly digging 
graves ! But though the casualties were fewer than 
might have been expected from the fact that the 
fort was commanded all round yet the siege was 


close and determined, and to show but for a moment, CHAP. 


even by a loophole, would quickly attract a fire. 
The Boer losses were not ascertained. At the close, 
the garrison had still remaining provisions sufficient 
for two months lono-er. 1 


1 Captain Brook having succeeded to a majority in his regiment, sub- 
sequently received the brevet rank of Lieut.-Colonel in recognition of 
his services. 




CHAP. THE garrison of Lydenburg a village of some trading 


importance, due to its vicinity to the Gold Fields, and 
lon ' similar in buildings and character to other small 
towns in the Transvaal consisted of the 94th Regi- 
ment, until, as already related, at the instance of the 
Administrator, these troops were, with the exception 
of a small detachment left to guard military stores, 
withdrawn on the 5th December 1880. The selection 
of the officer to remain behind in command of the 
post was left to the discretion of Lieut. -Colonel 
Anstruther ; the name of the senior lieutenant, who 
was also the regimental musketry instructor but 
whose services in this capacity were not at the time 
required being only suggested from headquarters 
for this responsible duty. Such, however, was the 
high opinion and confidence entertained of his abili- 
ties by his commanding officer, that, although the 

1 For an account of the splendid defence made by the British troops 
in this quarter, see a little book, entitled ' Peace and War,' by Mrs Long 
published by Messrs Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 
in 1882 from which we have largely drawn. 


junior officer of his regiment, and but about twenty- CHAP. 
two years of age, second Lieutenant Long a married 
man, with his wife present was chosen. 

Thus left, with 54 non-commissioned officers and 
men of his regiment, a sergeant and 7 sappers of the 
Royal Engineers who had been supervising the 
building of barrack-huts and 8 non-commissioned 
officers and men of the Commissariat and Hospital 
Corps ; with Surgeon Falvey in medical charge, and 
Conductor Parsons for supplies, Mr Long quickly 
set all hands to work to strengthen the position he 
was instructed from Pretoria to take up, in prepar- 
edness to repel any Boer attack. Carrying out 
Colonel Bellairs's orders, the Commissariat supplies, 
hitherto kept in a hired building in the town, were 
removed, and the camp, situated on a rise above 
the town, abandoned, thus concentrating men and 
stores in the hutment recently erected a short dis- 
tance from the camp. The huts were eight in num.- The fort. 
ber, each 50 feet long by 18 feet broad, built of 
stone, with thatched roofs, and placed lengthways in 
two rows, with 30 feet interval between the rows. 
Mr Long caused these buildings to be connected 
all round by stone walls or traverses between, the 
position thus enclosed forming a parallelogram of 
about 78 yards by 20 yards, dignified with the 
appellation of a fort, and named, after Mrs Long, 
Fort Mary. 1 

The Landdrost of the place declared to the com- 

1 See ante, note, p. 79. 

302 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, manding officer that there was no cause for alarm. 


and not the smallest chance of an insurrection. How- 


pie refuse ever, as grave rumours were current, pointing to a 

to co-oper- ' .. T r> i -*-T 

atemde- very disturbed condition ol the country, Mr Long, 

f cn CG 

on the 16th December, very judiciously called upon 
Mr Roth, the Landdrost, to inform the inhabitants 
that any having reason to fear the consequences of a 
rising might remove with their families to the Dutch 
laager an old walled place formerly used as a pro- 
tection against the natives where tents would be 
provided for them, and, being only 150 yards from 
the huts, they could co-operate with and come under 
the protection of the military. The reply sent back 
was that the inhabitants would, in the event of the 
Boers invading the town, remain neutral, taking no 
part either in its defence or otherwise. It thus 
became evident that no aid could be expected from 
the townspeople without pressure such as the small 
detachment of troops was unequal to exercising over 
them. Even the English and so-called loyal portion, 
with but very few exceptions, looked solely to their 
own personal interests, and considered that these 
would be best served by abstaining from siding with 
or in any way favouring the military. 

This being so, Mr Long did not delay ; but the 
same day 16th December took energetic measures 
to render his position more secure. The huts being 
commanded from the Dutch laager, and the military 
force inadequate to occupy the latter position as well, 
he notified that, the inhabitants having declined to 
occupy the laager, it became imperative to destroy 


the work, in order to comply with the instructions he CHAP. 

1 J . vn. 

had received to place the huts in a proper state of 

defence. An answer came " If Mr Long considered 
it necessary, he could carry out his plan, but hoped 
the British Government would restore it at its own 
expense." Within an hour after the receipt of this 
message, the side of the work fronting the huts was 

O 7 & 

blown up and levelled. Some walls and temporary 
buildings left on the adjoining old camp-ground, 
which might have offered shelter to an enemy, were 
subsequently similarly destroyed. 

The belief professed by the Landdrost that no News of 

. theBronk- 

rising need be apprehended, was, however, certainly horst 


not entertained by all civilians at this period, for we disaster. 
find Mrs Long, in her little work, relating that, on 
the 18th December two days before the occurrence 
of the Bronkhorst Spruit disaster her husband was 
conversing with Mr Stafford Parker, a merchant of 
Lydenburg, who, she says, had lived many years in 
the Transvaal, knew most of the influential Boers, 
understood their language, and was well aware of 
their determination to rise and regain their inde- 
pendence, when that gentleman expressed himself as 
follows : " Mark me, sir, if the Boers attack the 94th 
on the road, the troops will never reach Pretoria." It 
was not, though, until five days later the evening 
of the 23d December that this sad prediction 
previously looked upon as mere idle talk was found 
to have been verified. The evil news was brought in 
by a native boy, who had acted as driver to one of 
the Government waggons which had left Lydenburg 

304 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, with the 94th Regiment on the 5th December, and 


was immediately after confirmed by the arrival of the 
post-cart driver. 

Measures The works were now proceeded with with increased 
imp C rove energy. The presence of experienced men like Mr 
Parsons who, before being appointed to the Com- 
missariat staff, had served many years in the Eoyal 
Engineers and Sergeant Day of the Royal Engineers 
who was able to contribute the practical knowledge 
he had gained at the defence of Eckowe the previous 
year, materially assisted, and rendered Mr Long's 
task easier. Native labour was obtained from neigh- 
bouring kraals by the liberal payment of two shillings 
a-clay a man ; and a mule and an ox waggon were 
kept constantly employed moving backwards and 
forwards, the former collecting ant-hills for miles 
around affording, when pulverised and mixed with 
water, excellent material for cementing stone walls 
and the latter bringing in stones from the destroyed 
laager, camp buildings, and walls. Thus another 
" daagered " cemented stone wall sprang up on 
three sides of the position, 9 feet beyond the one 
previously built, want of sufficient time and labour 
preventing the completion of the fourth side, facing 
the town, which was about 1000 yards distant. 
At first 4| feet high, it was later on raised by 
sand-bags, loopholed, to over 6 feet, and its breadth 
increased to 5 feet. Outside this wall, and also on 
the front towards the town, a ditch was excavated, 
6 feet wide by 3 feet deep. Traverses were thrown 
up in suitable places to lessen the effect of the 


enemy's fire in the interior ; and afterwards, when CHAP. 
the attack drew closer, a trench, 3 feet wide, was 
constructed, the length of the fort, between the 
huts, to serve as a covert-way for the men to pass 
along in heavy cannonading. Six mines, with charges 
of 50 Ib. of powder each, were constructed at dis- 
tances of 50 yards, connected by wires with the 
fort. A building, 180 yards from the fort, which 
had been used as the officers' camp mess-hut, w r as 
also undermined. Wire entanglements were laid 
down, and wheels and broken waggons placed at 30 
yards' distance around the fort, as obstacles to any 
attempted rush of mounted men. The roofs being 
thatched, and liable to be set on fire, were, as far as 
possible, covered with tarpaulins. 

When it is remembered that these heavy labours Excellent 

, , , . , . . , , spirit dis- 

nad to be carried on under a semi-tropical sun during played by 

. , i M I i M- the 94th 

the hot season ot the year, while the usual military Regiment. 
night watches and precautions could not be neglected, 
it will be conceded that the little garrison deserved 
immense credit for its high spirit under disadvanta- 
geous circumstances, working as it did in the midst 
of a hostile people, two hundred miles away, cut off , 
from all communication with headquarters, and ex- 
posed to many depressing influences, the disastrous 
news of the losses sustained by their corps at Bronk- 
horst Spruit ; the fact that all assistance was withheld 
by the English inhabitants of Lydenburg ; and reports, 
said to have been sedulously spread by some of the 
leading English townspeople, with a view to causing 
neutrality and preventing others taking up arms, to 


306 THE TRANSVAAL WAK, 1880-81. 

CHAP, the effect that the troops must necessarily be anni- 


- hilated in less than half an hour after the opening of 
an attack. Apart from their high qualifications as 
combatants, the 94th Eegiment now called the 2d 
Battalion of the Connaught Eangers ever in the 
Transvaal showed themselves as good willing workers, 
when real hard labour was required of them. It was 
so in peace-time and during war, at Fort Albert in 
the Lulu mountains, at Marabastadt, at Standerton, 
at Pretoria, as well as here at Lydenburg, every man 
at all times ready and willing to do his quota of work. 
No regiment in the Queen's service performed their 
heavy fatigue duties better or more cheerily under 
difficulties and dangers. 

commis- A waggon with supplies from Pretoria having 
pile's. evidently fallen into the hands of the insurgents, Mr 
Parsons at once took steps to purchase from the local 
merchants such stores as appeared necessary. The 
garrison were now well provisioned for a lengthened 
siege, having about three months' supplies of preserved 
meat ; eight months' of bread-stuffs, tea, and cocoa ; 
seven weeks' of fresh potatoes ; besides a fair quantity 
of preserved vegetables, rice, sugar, salt, pepper, &c., 
and plenty of hospital extras. Bricks were secured, 
and an oven built for baking bread. A well was 
commenced. A large quantity of rifle ammunition 
having been left on the departure of the headquarters 
of the regiment over 200,000 rounds an under- 
ground magazine was constructed for its safe custody. 
Surgeon Falvey also exercised much forethought 
in making timely hospital arrangements. He pur- 


chased sundry medical necessaries likely to be wanted, CHAP. 
and secured the only case of amputation instruments 
in the town, the military surgical case belonging to 
the station having been taken away by the medical 
officer accompanying the headquarters of the 94th 

Mr Long took the precaution to request the Land- 
drost to cause all arms and ammunition to be lodged 
in the fort ; but although this demand met with some 
response, there is reason to believe that rifles and 
powder were held back, and handed over by the 
merchants to the Boers. 

Finally, the garrison was strengthened by three A few voi- 
volunteers coming in from the Gold Fields, and six join, 
others joining from the town. There were, likewise, 
one civilian and ten natives attached to the Commis- 
sariat department, who were retained in the fort. 
The Rev. Father Walsh, who had acted as Roman 
Catholic chaplain to the troops in the Zulu and 
Sekukuni campaigns, and was then residing at Lyden- 
burg, also determined to throw in his lot with the 
soldiers most of whom belonged to his persuasion 
undeterred by former trying siege experiences when 
shut up in Fort Eckowe. Mrs Long the counsels of 
some townspeople and offers to take charge of her 
notwithstanding insisted upon remaining with her 
husband, and braving the inevitable hardships and 
dangers which must result from her decision. 


During the afternoon of the 27th December the 
Landdrost appeared before the fort, accompanied by surrender. 




Short ar- 

sent to 

a Boer, who, on being met by Mr Long, he introduced 
as Mr Dietrick Muller, deputed by the Boer Govern- 
ment to demand the surrender of the garrison. Mr 
Muller, alluding to the defeat of the troops at Bronk- 
horst Spruit, pointed out that the garrison were like 
rats in a trap, without chance of escape, and, resist- 
ance being useless, must inevitably fall similarly un- 
less they now laid down their arms. Mr Long replied 
that his orders were to hold his position, and until he 
received fresh instructions, he could not act other- 

The defences being still far from completed, Mr 
Long was desirous of gaining time and delaying the 
attack, which seemed imminent. He therefore pro- 
posed sending a messenger to Pretoria to ask for 
further instructions in the circumstances in which he 
was placed. Mr Muller fell in with this idea, and it 
was agreed that Mr Kuhneissen, a sheriff of the dis- 
trict, should leave for this purpose the same night, 
hostilities being meanwhile delayed until he could 
return with an answer in five days. This successful 
temporisation proved valuable. The garrison, in this 
interval gained, worked day and night on the de- 
fences, and were thus enabled to resist the lengthened 
siege which took place. Mr Kuhneissen delivered 
the letter he had been intrusted with to Colonel 
Bellairs the only communication received from Ly- 
denburg at headquarters during the war. He told of 
the excellent spirit and earnest way in which the 


little garrison was working for its defence, even Mrs 
Long giving additional encouragement to the men by 


herself taking a part in the rough labour. Mr Kuh- CHAP. 
neissen received sealed despatches to take back ; but 
these not being favourable to the interests of the 
Boer Government, were taken from him, and he him- 
self kept for some days in close confinement. 1 

In making the various preparations to withstand Fatal acci- 

r. . , dent to a 

attack, a fatal accident occurred on the 1st January, volunteer. 
Volunteer M'Donald had been instructed to clear an 
iron pipe, forming part of an Abyssinian pump, of 
some damp gunpowder. Heedlessly he placed one 
end of the pipe in a furnace, when the powder, dry- 
ing up, exploded, causing such injury to M'Donald 
that he died the same day. A native, who was hold- 
ing the other end of the pipe, had his arm shattered, 
rendering amputation necessary. 

On the 3d January, parties of Boers, with waggons Boer force 
and the Republican flag flying, commenced to arrive, 
and took up a position about two miles off on the 
Middleburg road. These were joined two days later 
by a further large mounted body, who drew up and 
formed line with military precision, showing how 
much they must have profited by drill. The same Natives 
evening information was obtained of an intention on with. 
the part of some natives, who had been retained up 
to this time to assist in the works, and who were said 
to have been tampered with by the Boers, to set fire 
to the thatched roofs of the huts, and thus create con- 
fusion and facilitate attack. These men were quickly 
turned adrift, and a possible disaster so prevented. 

1 See Blue-book (c. 2866), pp. 158, 159. 

310 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. On the 6th the attack was commenced. While a 


party of 250 Boers entered the town and carried out 
merit of the ceremony of hoisting the flag and proclaiming 
the Eepublic, patrols were observed quietly drawing 
round the fort. At 10.30 A.M. a flag of truce de- 
livered to the commandant a letter from Commandant- 
General Piet Joubert, dated Heidelberg, 24th Decem- 
- ber, demanding the surrender of the garrison. This 

mand for .. -11 T r 

surrender letter was accompanied by another, also irom Joubert, 
directing the Assistant Commandant-General for the 
Lydenburg district, Mr J. P. Steyn, to grant honour- 
able and careful treatment in case of friendly and 
quiet submission, but ending grimly, " If nothing of 
the kind happens, you know what you have to do." 
Lieutenant Long soon replied, in writing, refusing 
the terms, and informing the Boer commandant that 
any truce made must be considered at an end. The 
receipt of this answer caused a perceptible commotion 
in the town, people in all directions hurriedly seeking 
the shelter of houses. The Boer force was now esti- 
mated at between 500 and 600 men. Taking advan- 
tage of every inequality of ground and obstacle offer- 
ing the means of concealment, they managed, while 
being themselves seldom visible, to approach the fort 
to within 200 or 300 yards. A fire was opened from 
all sides by the garrison at 11.45 A.M., which was 
vigorously replied to, and kept up by both parties 
until 3 P.M., when it slackened, but continued in a 
desultory manner through the night. The garrison 
were untouched, the high parapets and traverses being 
found to answer their purposes most effectually. 


The following day the firing again became heavier, CHAP. 
the enemy sheltering themselves mainly in the out- 
lying houses of the town nearest the fort, one of 
which, recently used as the military hospital, was only 
about 400 yards off. During the night, some Boers 
being observed to occupy the ruins of the old Dutch 
laager, an elephant gun one of three, amongst others, 
which had been given up by the town carrying an 
eight-ounce ball, was mounted on a block of wood, 
and brought to bear with effect on that quarter. This 
gun, however, subsequently burst. 

On the morning of the 8th the garrison were star- Boer can- 
tied by a cannon probably a ship's gun unexpect- 
edly opening from the vicinity of the old hospital, 
but six shots then fired passed harmlessly over the 

On the 9th, annoyance being experienced from the Day sortie, 
close vicinity of some of the enemy, who had estab- 
lished themselves among the ruins of the old Dutch 
laager, Conductor Parsons volunteered and gallantly 
led out a party to dislodge them. Starting at noon 
with six non-commissioned officers and men, three 
natives also going with them, the Boers were driven 
out and made to retire precipitately down the hill. 
Then throwing down some shelter the latter had con- 
structed, the party returned under a heavy cross-fire, 
but with only one of the natives wounded. 

The same day further excitement was created by Message 

, . , . -, . . . , -, from the 

a little terrier dog bringing in a message tied round town. 
his neck from a friendly hand in the town. It gave 
the information that the Boers had been quarrelling 

312 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, amongst themselves and with Dietrick Muller, for 


his having so imprudently allowed the garrison five 
days' armistice, pending which they were enabled to 
add so materially to the strength of the fort ; it also 
added that the soldiers fired too high, their shots 
passing over the houses. This latter hint was taken, 
and the shooting improved. 

Gallant The enemy's fire was less brisk on the 10th and 

Conductor 11 tli. Towards midnight on the former day, Mr 

O J ' 

Parsons. . -i i -\ -\ -\ r> /-N 

rarsons again distinguished himself. Crawling out 
to the old Dutch laager, from which some Boers were 
firing, he coolly lighted a hand-grenade and pitched 
it amongst them, causing a loud explosion and a 
fresh stampede, with the good result that the enemy 
did not reoccupy that ground for some days. 
Progress The enemy reopened artillery-fire on the morning 
ege. of the 12th this time with an additional gun, placed 
at the civil prison, in the market-square, about 1000 
yards' distance, the guns being 6 or 7 pounders. 
For six hours it was continued, many of the shots 
proving effective, and penetrating the upper walls 
18 inches thick and roofs of the huts. The 
hospital hut especially suffered, although surmounted 
by the Geneva flag; and it was deemed advisable to 
remove the patients, though at some risk, in the 
midst of the fire, to a more sheltered one. There 
were by this several wounded men, as well as 
some cases of enteric fever, under treatment, the 
latter no doubt brought on by bad water. The 
breaches made by the cannon-shot were quickly 
repaired by means of sand-bags and bales of blankets. 


Heavy musketry-fire was also kept up on both sides, CHAP. 
the garrison giving particular attention to keeping 
down the artillery-fire. 

A similar fire was resumed the next day, though 
not kept up for so long; and on the 14th the enemy 
was discovered to have removed one of their guns to 
a battery constructed during the night about three- 
quarters of a mile south of the fort. Thirteen shots 
came from this direction ; but only one entered 
the fort, and the position was afterwards apparently 

The three days which followed were comparatively 
quiet, only occasional rifle-shots being fired. Advan- 
tage was therefore taken to repair damages and further 
strengthen the position. On the night of the 17th, 
though, the enemy opened a heavy fire on all sides of 
the fort, which was not slackened until the morning. 
The garrison, fearing an intention to endeavour to 
rush the fort, replied by a raking fire all round at 

A welcome two days' supply of fresh meat was Fresh 
obtained one day. Some calves having incautiously tamed. 
approached, attracted by the luxuriant grass growing 
around the fort, three were brought down by a volley 
fired upon them, and their carcasses fetched in after 

On the 16th, a horseman, riding along the road, A sad in- 
holding a white handkerchief, was recognised as an " 
English gold-digger, named Green, and called into the 
fort. He had been in Lydenburg when the Boers 

314 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, occupied the town, but had now obtained a pass to 
the Gold Fields to look after some of his property, 
leaving his wife and children behind. He agreed to 
get a telegraphic message conveyed to Delagoa Bay 
for transmission to England, Mr Long offering him 
100 if successful. Although advised to remain in 
the fort until after dark, he preferred leaving before, 
saying that he should then be more afraid of our men 
than of the Boers by day. The unfortunate man fell 
a victim to his over-assurance and imprudence in 
holding communication with the troops, being taken 
prisoner on his return by a Boer outpost, and shot. 
His sad fate was not, however, known to the garrison 
until hostilities had ended. 

Forty-eight cannon-shots were fired, during the 
18th, from the direction of the prison and old military 
hospital, the huts being frequently struck ; but, 
though some remarkable escapes occurred, no serious 
damage was done, the sentries warning all to take 
cover when the flash of a discharge was seen. The 
Night same evening, when the artillery-fire had ceased, 
Conductor Parsons, with Sergeant Day and five 
sappers, covered by a supporting party of eight men 
of the 94th Kegiment, under Sergeant Cowdy, sallied 
forth cautiously to the ruins of the old Dutch laager 
which had been again occupied by the enemy- 
intending to lay a mine. They, however, failed in 
this purpose, being discovered after working for some 
time, and obliged to fall back under heavy fire, though 
fortunately without casualty. 

The morning after, two men Private Hatherell, of 


the 94th Regiment, and Volunteer Stewart took it CHAP. 


into their heads to endeavour to emulate the conduct 
of the party which had gone out the previous day, ofhardi- 
and, without orders, left the fort and went towards 
the Dutch laager. Suddenly fired upon by some 
Boers concealed among the ruins, Hatherell fell 
mortally wounded, but Stewart succeeded in getting 
back unhurt. On its being seen that the former could 
not rise, Private W. J. Eobinson, of the 94th Regi- 

' O 

ment, and Volunteer Holmes M'Dougall courageously 
went out under a sharp fire, and carried him in. 

For a few days there was comparative peace, the 
enemy being apparently occupied in protecting their 
gun by the old military hospital, with an earthwork 
and some iron targets brought from the rifle-range, a 
little distance off. They also, under cover of night, 
constructed shelter at the further side of the Dutch 
laager. As it seemed to be their intention to place a 
gun in this latter position, it was deemed advisable to 
sap towards and construct a covert-way to command 
the spot. A working-party was accordingly started 
on the 22d, Mr Parsons going out to work with the 
men. A large barrel filled with old tents was used as 
a sap roller at the head of the trench. The sap had 
proceeded about 10 yards, when Sergeant Cowdy, who 
was in command of a covering party of the 94th 
Regiment, was shot through the head and body. The 
dying man was brought in by Private Maurice Whelan intrepid 
of the 94th Regiment and Civilian Conductor Charles of some 
Jurgessen, a Dane attached to the Commissariat De- 
partment, who, regardless of the firing then going on, 

316 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, rushed out to his assistance. 1 Sergeants Day, R.E., 

VII. J . 

and Allen, A.H. Corps, were also conspicuous in hur- 
rying out to render aid. This, including a man of the 
94th Regiment, who succumbed at this time to an 
attack of enteric fever, was the fourth death in the 
little garrison. The further progress of the sap was 
now interrupted, the work being considered too dan- 
gerous. Mr Long himself, accompanied by a volun- 
teer, set an example by working in the trench ; but, 
finally, the attempt was for a time abandoned. 

Scarcity On the 23d January water was found to be running 

of water. / ' 

snort, and the garrison were during the succeeding 
fortnight in great straits on account of its deficiency, 
occurring as it did during the summer heats, and when 
great labour and exposure was required of every man. 
The season, following its normal course, should at this 
period have been wet, but in fact turned out unusu- 
ally dry. All that could be done was to deepen the 
existing well and commence a fresh one laborious 
operations in the hope of reaching more water, and 
to take steps to catch some from any passing storm. 
The daily issue to each man was, on the 31st, re- 
stricted to three pints ; and, on the 3d February, it 
was further reduced to one pint. There being a sup- 
ply of bottled beer in the commissariat store, a pint 
bottle was now issued to each man daily who desired 
it ; and, on the surgeon pointing to the altered physi- 

1 Private Whelan was subsequently promoted to Corporal, and re- 
ceived the medal for distinguished conduct. We hope that Mr Jur- 
"essen was likewise rewarded. 


cal aspect and haggard worn appearance presented by CHAP. 
the men, evidencing how rapidly their health and 
constitutions were suffering from the scant supply of 
water, combined with heavy fatigues and night work, 
it was deemed necessary to discontinue labour on the 
works as much as possible during the heat of the day. 
The issue of beer did not, though, answer expectation, 
and experience showed it to have little effect in 
quenching real thirst, most of the men desiring to 
procure water instead. Evening after evening tan- 
talising masses of dark cloud would appear, and heavy 
rain often be seen descending on the adjoining hills. 
Then every utensil would be got ready to receive the 
much-needed supply a sapper was wounded while 
thus engaged placing barrels ; but time after time 
only disappointment ensued, and the drought at the 
fort continued. By the 4th February the original 
well had been deepened to 40 feet, but only 15 gal- 
lons flowed in during the night ; and the second well, 
then sunk to 25 feet, still gave no result. On the 
afternoon of the 6th a gentle shower fell, long enough 
to enable each man to obtain a slight quantity of 
water ; and on the two following days the ration 
was increased to two pints, 28 and 23 gallons each 
respective day having run into the well now 45 
feet deep. This better supply was observed to cause 
an immediate improvement in the appearance and 
spirits of the men. Finally, to the intense relief of 
all, a heavy downpour of rain came on about noon 
on the 8th, continuing for some hours, and, while 
furnishing a store of water sufficing for the imme- 

318 THE TEANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, cliate wants of the garrison, caused a better supply 


- from the well. 

After dusk, on the 23d January, the enemy sur- 
rounded the fort, and then poured in the hottest 
musketry - fire yet experienced, their cannon also 
reopening. This attack was replied to by sweeping 
volleys from the garrison, which, it was believed, had 
Fresh dar- together with the daring act repeated by Mr Par- 

in * tict "by 

M? Par- sons, who again stole out towards one of the enemy's 
positions, and exploded a hand-grenade in their midst 
the effect of checking an intended rush to capture 
the place. At daybreak the attack was resumed by 
an equally heavy fire, and kept up the whole day. 
Ninety-two cannon-shots were fired. The artillery- 
fire was continued on the 25th and 26th, but only 
accompanied with occasional shots from rifles. On 
the former day, forty-two cannon-shots were counted; 
and one of them, which had crashed through two 
huts, on being examined, proved to be a rudely 
constructed shell which had failed to explode. 

Whenever the enemy's fire abated, the opportunity 
was seized to effect repairs and strengthen the de- 
fences. The parapet wall now five feet thick 
resisted the cannon-shot, but many of the huts were 
much damaged, the walls being pierced through and 
through, and the roofs riddled. Still, none had yet 
fallen. The two end huts were strengthened by the 
addition of earthen walls, two feet thick replaced 
later by stone on the inner sides of the outer 
ones ; and props were placed under the roofs to sup- 


port them., in case the walls should give way. A CHAP. 
supply of sand-bags industriously made by Mrs 
Long and some of the hospital patients was kept 
in readiness to repair breaches. 

The 27th and remaining days of January were 
tolerably quiet, and nothing particular occurred until 
the 1st February, when it was discovered that the 
enemy had succeeded in constructing a position for 
their cannon among the ruins of the old Dutch laager, 
only about 150 yards from the south end of the huts. 
A steady rifle-fire was kept up from the fort, but the 
Boers, as was their practice throughout the siege, 
kept well under cover in the day at night they 
evidently crept out occasionally to the open, as fire 
came from directions offering no cover. 

Through the ingenuity of the men of the Army AH extern- 
Service Corps, a small cannon was constructed out gun. se 
of the monkey of an Abyssinian pump, throwing 
a cylindrical ball, weighing 2 Ib. 6 oz., made from 
round crowbar iron cased in lead. Brought into 


action amidst much excitement, on the 1st February, 
it was found to fire remarkably well. As quickly 
as ammunition could be manufactured, this extem- 
porised gun continued to play on the houses and 
positions held by the enemy, from which they kept 
up a fire. 

The enemy having got a gun into their new work, Boer gun 
recommenced cannonading the fort on the 2d, the potion. 
huts suffering considerably, and many hair-breadth 
escapes occurring to the garrison. The embrasure of 
the gun, when not firing, was screened by a two-inch 

320 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, iron target, which appeared to be worked on hinges. 
A watch was kept in the fort, and a volley poured 
into the opening the instant the gun was run out, 
with such good effect that the enemy experienced 
much difficulty, and could only fire at long intervals. 
Union- A ship's ensign, which the garrison had been fly- 

ing over the fort since the commencement of hostil- 
ities, had by this become so damaged by wind and 
bullets, that it was determined to provide a substi- 
tute and make a real Union -jack. A Geneva flag 
being available, and Mrs Long contributing a blue 
serge dress, the flag was soon made to assume the 
required pattern, and was hoisted amid great accla- 

The enemy's fire during the greater part of Febru- 
ary was neither so severe nor continuous as pre- 
viously, and from the 10th to the 13th all was so 
quiet as to lead to the impression that the main body 
had left; but, later, although little firing took place 
by day, occasional volleys were poured into the fort 
by night. Sundays were usually very quiet. The 
rifle ammunition used by the Boers was found to be 
largely of the Martini-Henry pattern, evidently from 
the stores captured at Bronkhorst Spruit. 

On the 8th, as the Boers were busily engaged in 
making a nearer approach by throwing up a shelter 
trench across the old Dutch laager ruins, it was deter- 
mined to endeavour again to push forward the aban- 
doned zigzag sap, and so perhaps get near enough to 
damage this work by exploding a mine. The trench 
was steadily carried on, and by the 24th, a mine, 


charged with 35 Ib. gun-cotton, at 60 yards' distance CHAP. 
D . . vn. 

from the fort, was in readiness to be exploded. 

On the 20th it was deemed prudent to effect a Reduction 
reduction in the scale of rations in the event of the 
siege being much further prolonged ; and, on the 
24th, an effort was made to acquaint the general Messengers 
officer at Newcastle of the condition of the garrison, Newcastle. 
two of the natives having offered to carry a despatch 
by way of Swaziland. Both were, however, as was 
learnt afterwards, stopped by Boers on the border, 
and prevented going further. 

At the beginning of March the outer walls of the Fail of a 


end huts, facing the nearer enemy's gun, became so 
riddled from round - shot as to threaten complete 
collapse to the buildings, notwithstanding the efforts 
made to strengthen them by the erection of inner 
walls and props to the roofs. One of these huts, 
which at the commencement of the siege had served as 
a hospital, and since as officers' quarters, was in process 
of being evacuated and baggage removed, when the 
walls gave way and fell in, smashing the crockery and 
other articles there had not been time to get out, Mrs 
Long herself barely escaping through the open door. 

On the 3d March, the enemy removed their gun Boer gun 
from the old Dutch laager to a fresh position, con- moved. 
structed on the crest of the hill near the river, about 
400 yards from the fort. 

On the following day a fresh element of danger to Fresh eie- 
the garrison cropped up, through the enemy setting danger: 
fire to the thatched roofs of the huts by means of 


322 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Greek fire, enclosed in pointed metallic tubes per- 
forated with holes, sent, apparently, attached to the 
points of arrows. The tarpaulins, which had origi- 
nally been spread over the roofs, had been damaged 
and cut away by the enemy's shot. The commissariat 
hut was the first to suffer, and it took two hours of 
strenuous exertion a good supply of water being 
fortunately forthcoming at this period to get the 
fire under, and at the same time save the commis- 
sariat supplies. Civilian Conductor Charles Jurgessen 
and Volunteer Stewart were conspicuous in expos- 
ing themselves, mounted on a platform throwing 
buckets of water on the burning roof. Another hut, 
similarly fired, was saved by the coolness of Private 
W. Lee, who crawled along outside the roof, and 
plucked out the burning rocket from the thatch. As 
the thatched roofs could no longer be efficiently pro- 
tected, it was determined to remove them. The 
rafters were accordingly cut through, and the roofs 
allowed to fall into the interior of the huts. Sergeant 
Day and Sapper O'Leary were mentioned as having 
distinguished themselves in this exposed dangerous 
duty under fire. 

The enemy evidently expected great results from 
setting the huts on fire. As soon as smoke was seen 
issuing from the commissariat hut, they showed 
themselves in strength estimated at 700 men and 
mounted parties were observed posted on the hills 
around, as if intended to cut off any attempt to escape. 
A rapid artillery and rifle fire was kept up, the latter 
lasting; four and the former seven hours. Through 

o o 


it all the garrison coolly and steadily worked on, CHAP. 
being able to spare, during the first three hours of its - 
continuance, only eighteen men to act as sentries 
and respond to the attack. Volunteer Stewart was 
killed, and another man severely wounded. The 
former was the fifth and last death which occurred 
during the siege, though several men were badly 
wounded from time to time. 

The wire attached to the mine by the old officers' Excellent 
mess-building having become covered with debris and performed 

~ by some 

overgrown with grass, Conductor r arsons and Volun- men. 
teer Holmes remained outside the fort, on the night 
of the 4th, for upwards of an hour, clearing it, while 
the enemy's rifle-fire continued. They, it was after- 
wards found, had managed to take up this fougasse 
without damage to themselves. Sergeant Day and 
Sapper Church, R.E., and Corporal Crothers and Pri- 
vate Joy, 94th Regiment, also performed good service 
about this time, in proceeding to blow up a sanitary 
trench, used by the garrison, 50 yards outside, but 
which had become a source of danger, some of the 
enemy in the last attack having occupied it. 

From the 5th to the 9th was a quiet time, during 
which the thatch was removed from inside the huts, 
and burnt in the outside ditch. Heavy rains fell and 
caused much discomfort, but some amount of shelter 
was obtained with old tarpaulins and tents. 

On the morning of the 10th, two men, bearing a News from 
flag of truce, appeared before the fort with a letter 
for the commandant from Mr Alfred Aylward, lately 

324 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, editor of the ' Natal Witness,' but who had recently 
vii. . . . 

joined the Boer side. This gave a tolerably fair 

resume, as was afterwards ascertained, of the suc- 
cesses achieved by the Boers ; pointed out that no 
relief could be forthcoming ; and, on the part of Corn- 
Enemy mandant-General Joubert, offered favourable terms 

offers terms - . . . 

forcapitu- lor capitulation. An answer was requested within 

lation. . u 

three hours, though it was left open to Lieutenant 
Long to arrange for an interview or short armistice 
with the Boer commandant. Accompanied by Dr 
Falvey and the Rev. Father Walsh, Mr Long then 
went to meet Assistant Commandant-General Steyn 
and Mr Aylward in the town. The latter took the 
lead in conversation, enlarged upon the effect of the 
reverses experienced by Sir George Colley, and pressed 
upon Mr Long the necessity of surrender, no hope of 
relief remaining, and further resistance being futile. 
A truce of twenty-four hours was agreed upon. The 
following morning the two men reappeared with the 
white flag, and accompanied by Mr Aylward, to whom 
Mr Long then handed his written reply, to the effect 
The fort that his orders from the Colonel commanding the 
be to Transvaal were to hold the fort ; and, until he received 

the last. . . 

contrary instructions, he must continue to do so. Ihe 
white Hugs were soon after taken down, and firing on 
both sides resumed. 

Illness, and the effects of a slight splinter- wound, 
compelled Lieutenant Long to give over the com- 
mand of the fort to Surgeon Falvey from the 12th to 
the loth. During this period an inner fortified posi- 
tion was constructed for the garrison to retire upon, 


in the event of their being driven back from the outer CHAP. 


line, the stones from the walls of the two end huts - 
being utilised for this purpose. 

The firing now became slack by day, but brisker News of 

. the armis- 

by night. On the 23d the Boer commandant sent in, tice, but 

' >ri hostilities 

under a nag of truce, a ' Natal Mercury of the 8th, stm con- 

. , tinned. 

containing an account of Sir George Colley's final 
defeat and death, and the terms of the armistice sub- 
sequently entered into, the latter being, apparently, 
the first intimation the garrison had of the matter. 
Two days later, the Boer commandant notified that 
the said armistice had been extended for three days. 
As, until the arrival of the pro vision -waggons, the 
agreement had no effect at the outlying stations, 
hostilities continued as previously. 

On the evening of the 29th, and lasting until mid- 
night, the enemy poured in a heavy artillery and rifle 
fire ; and during these last days several foug asses were 
laid and exploded by the garrison from the end of 
their zigzag trench. Charged with 30 Ib. of gun- 
cotton, and fired by means of a slow match, these 
mines sent the ton or so of stones laid over them 
flying into the air and into the Boer position behind 
the laager, and as transpired afterwards by nearly 
smothering two Boer miners engaged in tunnelling 
towards the fort, had the effect of arresting their 
work for a time. 

About mid-day on the 30th hostilities ceased, the Peace noti- 
Boer commandant having reported to Mr Long that 
articles of peace had been signed ; and shortly after- 
wards Lieutenant Baker, of the 3d Battalion 60th 

326 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Eifles, arrived with despatches in confirmation. The 


- siege was over, after having lasted eighty-four days 
a remarkable defence reflecting great honour on the 
brave, indomitable little garrison. 1 

1 Colonel Bellairs, on receiving Lieutenant Long's detailed report of 
the siege, issued, on the 15th April, an order giving the highest praise 
to the garrison " for the successful and heroic defence made for so long 
a period against a determined foe, many times their number, and under 
circumstances of great privation and difficulty." How deplorable was 
it that many of the men who had thus so brilliantly distinguished 
themselves, should, soon after hostilities were over, have tarnished their 
hardly earned fame by breaking away from all control, and evincing 
such a spirit of insubordination as to necessitate the relief of the detach- 
ment, and numerous trials by courts -martial ! 




THE village for in appearance it is nothing more CHAP. 
consists of only some fifty ground -floor buildings, 
mostly constructed of stone, with corrugated iron 
roofs, but some wholly of iron, scattered over a space 
of less than half a square mile. The general absence 
of trees, fruit-gardens, and hedges gives a bare appear- 
ance, unlike other little towns of the Transvaal. 
Lying on the slope of the plain to the north, it is 
overlooked by higher ground and rocky knolls rising 
up north and east. The Heidelberg-Newcastle road 
passes through, crossing the Vaal below to the south 
by Stander's Drift. Both town and drift derive their 
names from "General" Stander, who had a neigh- 
bouring farm lying under a high hill also called after 
him. This gentleman fought against us at Boem Plaats 
nearly thirty years before, but had, since the annex- 

1 The story of " The Defence of Standerton " is very pleasantly told 
in ' Blackwood'.s Magazine' for July and August 1881. The account we 
give is mainly taken from that source. 

328 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, ation of the Transvaal, been content to sit as member 


Crown nominee with allowances of the Legislative 
Assembly. The river here is broad and rapid, often 
impassable for days and even weeks during this the 
rainy season. Winding and flowing east to west, 
it formed a natural protection to the military camp 
and position in that direction. 

Military The f or t and camp lay about a mile to the south- 

west of the town on rising ground, with Stander's 
Kop one of the lofty flat-topped hills so commonly 
met with in South Africa, forming landmarks for 
miles round a mile and a quarter to its north-west. 
The fort was an earthwork, with ditch around and 
some commissariat sheds inside ; and the camp in- 
cluded sundry stone huts, some unfinished. The 
garrison was composed of three companies of the 
94th and one of the 58th Eegiment, with a few 
sappers and men belonging to the Commissariat and 
Hospital Corps about 350 regulars. Three of the 
companies, under Captain Froom, had only reached 
the place on the 21st December, as has been already 
related, under circumstances of considerable risk from 
attack on the march at a disadvantage. 

Defences. Three days later Major Montague of the 94th 
Eegiment, who had been sent from Pietermaritzburg 
to take over the command, was able, after running 
risk of capture en route, to get into the place. During 
this interval the Court-house, containing the Land- 
drost's offices and jail, being central and the most 
substantial building, was adapted as a post of de- 
fence ; the hotel and another house similarly, all be- 


ing occupied by military a company under Captain CHAP. 
Campion. The townspeople at this time raised 
13 mounted and 21 foot volunteers for the defence 
of the town. 1 These men were armed by Captain 
Froom, and formed the nucleus of a body of volun- 
teers afterwards numbering 75 men which per- 
formed excellent service. 

The telegraph was still working at intervals to Telegraph 

XT i 1-i-ip-ii'T destroyed. 

Natal up to the 24th, but the following clay the wire 
was found cut in numerous places and the poles 
thrown down. Later on the Boers were seen in the 
distance removing the poles on a waggon ; but they 
were left standing to within 1200 yards of the out- 
posts on the north though across the river, where 
they could be got at with greater impunity, they 
were removed much nearer. 

On the 24th a meeting of the inhabitants was Christmas 
held, when the Landdrost who appears to have given 
ready assistance at all times read out the last tele- 
gram received from Sir George Colley, which stated 
that relief would reach the place on the 20th Janu- 
ary; and Major Montague called upon the people to 
furnish more volunteers, to choose their own officers, 
when he would arm and drill them. 

A large wool-store, with its windows and doors Refuge for 
blocked up, was handed over to shelter the women children. 
about a score and children at night, and placed in 
charge of the clergyman. After a short trial, though, 
the " Flea Laager," as it was called, was abandoned 
home, even with the risk of a chance bullet, being 

1 See Blue-book (c. 2783) of January 1881, p. 82. 

330 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, thought preferable to safety in the midst of an 
unpleasant " mixed " population. The enemy's 
shots were, however, fired at the forts ; and the 
town, although within range from across the river, 

False On Christmas Eve, after dark, some boys letting off 

crackers in the town, in honour of the day, created an 
alarm in the camp that the Boers were upon them. 
It served the purpose, however, of showing that the 
troops knew their places at the loopholes in case a 
real attack took place. 

Christmas How Christmas Day came to be spent, is thus 


graphically told in Lieutenant-Colonel Montague's 
narrative : 

" That day came 011 one of the thunderstorms of the 
country, bad enough in peace time; now, with the Boer 
scouts riding about outside, and all the buzz of preparation 
going on within, peculiarly awful. First increasing darkness 
till the tents were scarcely visible, and the men had to strike 
oi't' work ; then a flash, and a roll of thunder coming nearer ; 
a second flash more blinding than before, followed at a shorter 
interval by a louder roll, the air still as death : we remained 
in great expectancy, no breath, no sound, except the crashes, 
culminating in one that shook one's very frame, and made us 
turn round involuntarily to see which of us were hit. Close 
by two horses lay stone-dead, without a mark upon them ; a 
man near the tent we sat in, stretched out, fortunately only 
stunned ; and a corporal inside the tent beside him grinning, 
half in terror and a little bit in sheer amusement, with a big 
hole burnt in his coat-sleeve, still smoking. We were lucky 
to escape so easily. The strange thing in these storms is 
that they always wind up with one big crash. After that 


the thunder rolls and rumbles quietly away, as if in a hurry CHAP. 
to be off after doing the worst it can do. VIIL 

" As we sat round our poor table that evening, getting 
through a repetition of yesterday's dinner, we talked of home a 
bit, and of the merry evenings that our friends were passing that 
Christmas night ; yet, as we came to know afterwards, they were 
not so merry in many homes, the telegram telling our sad 
news having arrived that same Christinas Day. Then we did 
not know that ; and we munched our tough beef, and washed 
it down with the champagne left from yesterday's present, 
and thought of them at home, and wished that we were with 

Christmas passed. It was found that volunteers Martial 
came in but slowly, many making excuses for not ciared. 
joining. Pressure became necessary. Other circum- 
stances, too, showed that the civil population required 
a firmer hand than that of the Landdrost. It was 
necessary that the officer commanding should exer- 
cise the supreme authority over all on the spot. An- 
other meeting of the townspeople was therefore called, 
and Major Montague declared martial law to be in 

All hands then went to work with a will in strength- 
ening the defences in camp and town, storing water 
and provisions, and bringing all around into order. 
Reports kept coming in of Boer assemblies, and their 
projected attacks ; but nothing came of them until the 
29th December, when, some hundred of Boers being First skir- 
said to have collected in a valley three miles away, " 
the mounted men a serviceable little body about 
twenty-five strong, only just formed, but which were 
afterwards increased to twice that number were sent 

332 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, across the Vaal to reconnoitre under their leader, Con- 


ductor Cassell, a fine soldier, formerly a sergeant- 
major in the 16th Lancers. 1 Throwing out scouts in 
advance and to the flanks, the party moved along the 
Newcastle road until, looking from the camp, they 
appeared mere dots against the green veld. Then 
suddenly, out of a declivity to their left rear, emerged 
a mass of horsemen, galloping, as it seemed, towards 
the river ; but, catching sight of the man Volunteer 
Hall scouting to the left, they made for him, he gal- 
loping, waving his carbine, and shouting faintly 
heard from the camp to warn his party. Then, for 
the next ten minutes, ensued a race for life, the Boers, 
though nearer to the river, firing meanwhile, losing 
ground, until only a few of the better mounted showed 
to the front. At this juncture, some infantry having 
been placed on a kopje which commanded the drift 
and the ground beyond for half a mile, caused the 
leading Boers, on coming within range, to hang back, 
when our mounted men were enabled to get in though 
with the loss of five men left on the ground one of 
tli cm being the gallant fellow who had first warned his 
comrades of their danger. His body was found, after 
the siege, in a shallow grave on the hillside, and, 
being brought in, was reburied with military honours 
in the little cemetery below the camp, where half-a- 
dozen mounds mark the resting-places of others. 

Two wounded men lay by the drift for some time, 
feebly crying for help before any could be rendered, 
the Boers several hundreds of them having dis- 

1 See ante, p. 96. 


mounted, and from a ridge, about 700 yards distant, CHAP. 

J . vin. 

kept up a heavy fire for about an hour, replied to by 

our men, who took up positions under cover along 
the river-front by the fort. 

By the end of December Standerton would appear Boer posi- 

. tions. 

to have been completely invested, a stone laager 
having been formed behind a kopje across the river 
to the south ; another similarly placed to the north 
of the town ; Stander's Kop, occupied by day, re- 
ceived its garrison from a laager to the west ; and 
other laagers were located higher up the river. 
Boer patrols and scouts encircled the place. Their 
force was commanded by Commandant Lombaard. 

The camp was much exposed to long-range rifle- 
fire from across the river, and from a kopje south of 
Stander's Kop ; sharpshooters had frequently to be 
employed to keep it down. In order to give the 
impression that the enemy's fire was not felt, the 
tents were left standing outside the fort, but the 
men were ordered not to use them an order not 
strictly obeyed until two men had been severely 
wounded while sitting under the canvas. The 
officers' tents, placed further down, gained some 
protection from the fort, and were used for washing 
and dressing in of a morning ; but precautions, by 
making traverses with boxes inside, had to be taken, 
though even then the inmates were not always safe, as 
both tents and clothing therein showed many bullet- 
holes. Officers and men slept in the fort, the former 
in a shed, which also served them for their meals. 

334 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. The military hospital was a stone building below 
the fort, fairly protected from fire. The Dutch 

Hospital n . , . ,, 

arrange, church in the town a spacious stone edifice was 
also utilised for the wounded, and was capable of 
holding thirty beds. 

Many of the houses in the town having been, at 
the commencement, deserted by their owners, who 
left in a hurry for the Orange Free State or else- 
where, difficulty was experienced in checking rob- 
beries by soldiers and others. Corporal punishment 
had to be resorted to. 

First sortie. The fire from Stander's Kop proving annoying, 
Major Montague was desirous of making an attempt 
to surprise the Boer picket, which usually occupied 
that height by day, and which was, at that time, 
supposed to sleep by night at Stander's farmhouse 
at the foot of the hill, about a mile from the fort. 
Accordingly, at three o'clock on the morning of the 
4th January, sending thirty mounted men round to 
ascend the hill on its other side and cut off any Boers 
attempting to reach the top, Major Montague pro- 
ceeded with thirty volunteers from the 94th Regi- 
ment, under cover of a fairly dark morning, to line, 
in extended order, a wall about a hundred yards 
from the farmhouse. All was still, no sign of a 
sentry, and the party only awaited the appearance of 
the mounted men on the top of the hill another 
hundred yards beyond the house to make an ad- 
vanced movement, when the sound of galloping 
horses to their right rear told of the retreat of the 


mounted men. one of them soon coming up to ex- CHAP. 


plain that a large body of the enemy had been seen 
coming on, behind the hill. 

Thereupon Major Montague felt the necessity of 
falling back as well, but had not gone far when, 
morning having broken, a crowd of Boers were seen 
to the left of Stander's Kop, only about 200 
yards off. The infantry opened fire, and the Boers 
halting here and there to dismount and reply 
galloped to a rise about 400 yards away, where there 
was good cover behind ruined kraals, from whence 
they kept up the attack. In ten minutes more a 
company of the 58th Eegiment arrived as a sup- 
port on the right, when the enemy's fire slackened, 
and they gradually withdrew. Thus ended, with- 
out casualty to the garrison, what may be termed 
its first sortie. 

On the morning of the 7th January, it was dis- Gallant 

, , -....- conduct of 

covered that the enemy, during the night, had com- natives. 
menced an earthwork large enough to shelter fifty 
men, on the high ground across the river, 900 yards 
from and threatening the town, as well as the ground 
between it and the fort. Two sides of the camp were 
already exposed, and this work would command a 
third. An endeavour was made to provide against 
this contingency by erecting traverses. But soon 
the same afternoon a couple of plucky natives were 
instrumental in extricating the garrison from the 
difficulty. It was proposed to destroy a hut Schee- 
per's shanty which stood between this Boer trench 

336 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, and the river, and which, if occupied by the enemy, 
might occasion great inconvenience. Some Kafir pri- 
soners, who had volunteered for the hazardous work, 
were furnished by the Landdrost. Crossing the Vaal, 
these men quickly pulled down and burnt the hut. 
Then, finding no notice taken of their doings from the 
new trench above, one of the party a Swazie, under- 
going a sentence of penal servitude for homicide 
gun in hand, stole up to the work, followed by another 
native. Finding it empty, they seized some tools 
found inside, and succeeded in levelling it before the 
Boers became aware of what was being done. Too 
late some appeared on the scene and sent some shots 
after the men, the Swazie returning the fire, as they 
fell back triumphantly, amid the cheers of our men, 
with the Boer spades they had been working with. A 
subscription was got up for these two brave fellows 
l)y the townspeople, and it may be hoped that they 
afterwards had the rest of their terms of imprison- 
ment remitted, and were able to rejoin their tribes. 
Had their deed been performed by soldiers, the Vic- 
toria Cross would have rewarded their action. 

It being thought that the enemy might attempt to 
throw up the work again under cover of darkness, a 
couple of rifles, placed on rests for the exact range, 
were fired at intervals through the night, with the 
effect that no fresh operations were undertaken. It 
afterwards transpired that the work was intended for 
two guns expected from the Free State, but which 
never came. 

With the view of deceiving the Boers into the be- 


lief that the garrison possessed artillery, a dummy CHAP. 
gun mounted on waggon -wheels was constructed, and 
being occasionally run out and sundry evolutions per- 
formed with it, the desired effect is said to have been 

The fire from Stander's Kop continuing trouble- Another 
some, and a man having been shot from thence, a erected. 
rifle-pit, to act against that position, was commenced 
on the night of the 8th January. This, bit by bit, 
grew into a formidable outwork, provisioned for and 
garrisoned by fifteen men. It could only be relieved 
in the dark, on account of being so exposed to fire. 
Often the rains caused it to be knee-deep in water, no 
drainage being possible ; yet, notwithstanding, the men 
never grumbled at such continued discomfort. When, 
owing to wet, a piece of the parapet no larger than 
a tea-tray fell, towards the close of the investment, 
no less than 300 bullets were picked out of it, showing 
what the fire had been. 

Some days later a heliograph was constructed, by 
means of looking-glasses purchased in the town, and 
flashes \vere directed on Paarde Kop, a hill thirty miles 
on the road to Newcastle, in the delusive hope that 
Sir George Colley might be approaching, and would 
be able to reply. But two months were yet to elapse 
before anything was heard from that direction. 

As it was confidently anticipated that Sir George 
Colley would arrive with a relief column in a few 
weeks, the supplies to hand were deemed sufficient, 


338 THE TRANSVAAL WAE, 1880-81. 

CHAP, and no anxiety seems to have been entertained at first 


on that account. Cattle were plentiful, biscuits ample 
for present wants, and a good supply of lime-juice 
made the garrison independent of vegetables. The 
town, too, appeared fairly stocked, although Major 
Montague is found incidentally remarking : 

." The Dutch had lately made a practice of taking 
away flour to a large extent. Gunpowder had en- 
tirely gone the same way, one storekeeper having 
sold six barrels within a few months, while another 
gave 1000 rounds of Westley-Bichards cartridges to 
a Boer, the leader of one of the attacks upon Stan- 
derton, and avowedly disaffected, that being the 
quantity he was allowed to purchase each year, the 
Landdrost giving him the ' permit ' within a few days 
of the proclamation of the Eepublic. So well were 
matters managed by the Government at Pretoria." 

The end of January came, and with it as the ex- 
pected relief column had not been heard of greater 
anxiety as to the sufficiency of the supplies. The 
garrison had their food regularly meted out to them, 
but with the civilians it was otherwise, and it w T as 
feared that waste and extravagance were prevalent. 
Thereupon Major Montague determined to seize all 
provisions stored in the town, and place them under 
the care of the Landdrost for regularity of issue. 
The stores were gone through, and supplies carted 
away. Families were required to give up their pri- 
vate stocks, and enter their names on the ration list, 
or else certify that they could last for a time without 
help. The scale for rations soldiers and civilians 


was reduced ; small quantities of bread and biscuit CHAP. 

. viii. 
were issued to the former, but bread only twice 

a -week. Women received eight ounces of meal or of rations, 
sago, afterwards further reduced one-half, while 
the children seemed to have fared still worse. 

A group of horsemen, the leading man evidently command- 

, 1-1 ant-Gener- 

one in authority, were seen making observations on aiJoubert's 
the top of Stander's Kop for some hours on the 17th 
January, as if devising some plan for attacking. It 
was afterwards known that the leader was Joubert, 
the Commandant-General, and that the idea was to 
place a gun on the hill, strengthen the investing force, 
and then endeavour to take the place. Boer reinforce- 
ments were, however, soon urgently required for 
Laing's Nek, so the projected attack came to nothing. 

The kopje above the town and graveyard, to the A "scare." 
east, the key to the position, was originally held by 
a mixed force of soldiers and volunteers ; but one 
afternoon a panic with whom originating was not 
clear seized the party, who, evacuating the position, 
nearly caused the loss of the town. The arrangement 
was then put a stop to, and the troops and volunteers 
occupied, and were held responsible for, their own 
respective positions. 

The picket in charge of the kopje would seem to 
have been under fire from about 150 Boers, who had 
taken cover on a rocky kopje about 1000 yards to the 
front. All at once our men were seen running back 
by twos and threes, making for the town. Fortunately 

340 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, the Boers must have suspected some trap, as they 
delayed coming on to secure the advantage open to 
them. The officer commanding in the town, seeing 
what was taking place, thus had time to get out rein- 
forcements, and run them up the hill to continue the 
defence before the Boers had advanced. 

Arrival of Allusion has already been made in a former chapter 

a Zulu J 

messenger, to the one Zulu, of several native messengers sent 
from Pretoria, who succeeded in evading the Boer 
patrols and penetrating the English lines. The arrival 
of this fine fellow at Standerton, and his subsequent 
departure for Natal, is one of the prettiest bits of 
Major Montague's well-told tale, and will not admit 
of condensation : 

" He, the volunteer, had been out on vedette at daybreak, 
and had seen a native in the distance coming towards him, 
' when,' he added with a heroic air, ' I made for him at once, 
sir, and captured him, and brought him in. He says he wants 
to see you and no one else.' 

" A black youth, with a pleasant face, shivering with cold 
and wet, here peeped in with the usual boss, accompanied by 
the arm raised, and began to laugh as all natives, Zulus more 
than others, do when they wish to be serious. 

" ' Well, Johnnie ; what do you want ? ' 

" ' Me want general, sare ; you general, sare ? ' 

" ' He says he wants to see the Commandant, sir,' slid in 
the grizzly one. 

" ' Yes, that's me ; now what is it ? ' 

' J Ee won't tell you, sir ; he says he wants to see you 

" 'Well, we are alone; go on.' 

" ' No, sare, oder gentlemans here,' said the Zulu, pointing 


to my friends the doctor and one of the captains, who were CHAP. 
sitting upon their stretchers on either side of me. ' 

" ' They are nothing they are only friends ; go on.' 

" ' No, sare ; see you by self, not here if you please, sare.' 

" ' He says he must see you quite alone, sir,' echoed the 
escort. So I had to get up and go into the office-tent, into 
which followed the Zulu, also the volunteer. The pair then 
with much secrecy pulled the curtain down, hooked up the 
sides, and closed the door. We only wanted the ' Conspira- 
tors' Chorus ' to make the scene perfect. 

" The Zulu had a small bundle of clothes over his shoulder, 
supported by a stick run through the knot ; this he took 
down, and pulling out the stick, offered it to me. 

" ' Yes, all right ; but where is the letter, if that is what 
you have brought ? ' I asked. 

" He replied by tapping the stick, still holding it out to 

" ' He means it's in the stick, sir. Here, Johnnie, where is 
it, this end or that ?' continued the volunteer, pulling out his 
clasp-knife and cutting away at one end. 

" And so it turned out. The stick had been hollowed out, 
and a small roll of paper inserted, the hole being filled with 
a plug, when it was quite impossible to detect that it had 
been tampered with. The roll of paper contained a despatch 
from Pretoria, photographs of general orders, and a map of 
the road, all microscopic, and containing in a space smaller 
than a child's little finger a whole budget of news. It was 
addressed to Sir George Colley, commanding the troops at 
Standerton, where it was fully believed that he would be by 
the time the stick arrived. It was, as we learned long after, 
the day of Laing's Nek, when lie tried so well to redeem his 
word and to be with us. 

" The secret of the Zulu being given up, he went outside, 
and at once became the centre of an admiring crowd of sol- 
diers, to whom his adventures were like a page from the 
' Arabian Nights ' after their newsless life. He was the hero 
of the hour. One man gave him a pair of trousers, another a 

342 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, coat, and a third an old wideawake, which was immediately 

_' adorned with a tuft of black ostrich-feathers, from under 

which his face peered out with an air of self-complacency 
most amusing. . . . 

" The Zulu promised to go on again after a day's rest : so a 
fresh stick was got ready, another despatch added, and him- 
self provided with some money and food, and allowed to strut 
about as the hero of the hour a role he played to perfec- 
tion. . . . 

" Our Zulu meantime found he had fallen on such pleasant 
times that he thought he should like to stay permanently 
with us, and it wanted some pressure to induce him to go on. 
1 think he saw that his popularity was on the wane, and so at 
last consented. A second native volunteered to go with him. 
He got a big-coat, money, scoff that is, food for the journey 
his precious stick and, after much delay, at last started. To 
conclude his history at once : Three days later he returned, 
crest-fallen, wet, and draggled he had lain out in the open 
six miles away, within a few yards of the Dutch ; the country 
was infested by them ; patrols and sentries were everywhere ; 
it was impossible to get through. He expected to return, as 
before, a hero. But we were all disgusted at being sold, and 
he was unnoticed the men no longer asked him for his ad- 
ventures ; two Hottentot women at the waggons were said to 
have spat at him in scorn. He was broken-hearted, and came 
humbly enough after a day of it to ask to be allowed to try 
again. On this being granted, he made a fresh plan, got put 
across the river with his friend on a horse, and made off. 

" It turned out that they were soon made prisoners by some 
Kafirs, and brought back to the Dutch laager just across the 
river, where he was kept for five days, being armed with an 
assegai with which he promised to kill the English if they 
attacked. One night, I remember, we did return their fire 
rather sharply we knocked over nine of them ; another, every 
Dutchman, seized with panic, bolted out of the laager, think- 
ing that we had got dynamite in by some mysterious dodge. 
At last, by the most artful lies, he so imposed on the poor 


simple Dutch that they gave him a pass to the Free State, for CHAP. 

which he set out, taking with him the precious stick, and . 

getting through all right. In my despatch I asked Sir George 
Colley if he could reward the brave fellow with ten cows, 
and he actually received thirty pounds, the value of the cows. 
The Zulu subsequently turned up as servant to the correspon- 
dent of the ' Standard/ and on arriving at Standerton made 
straight for me, once more a hero." 

The position of a laager up the river had been re- Escape 
connoitred on the 28th January ; and as only eight aster. 
waggons were seen, and the ground about appeared 
favourable, Major Montague thought of attacking it, 
but the more than ordinary activity of the enemy on 
Stander's Kop induced him to put off the plan for 
a day. As he says : " And it was a piece of luck 
that I did, for that morning my scouts brought in 
word that this laager was on the move forty-nine 
waggons, with 200 men, so well do the laagers con- 
ceal their positions, and the force holding them. I 
should have gone with eighty men to attack a position 
I expected was held by sixty at the outside, and 
should have met my match, perhaps a bit more." 

The Zulu messenger, when he came in, also gave 
intelligence of having been a prisoner the three pre- 
vious days with a Boer laager from Potchefstroom, 
then twenty miles off, and moving, as he declared, 
to attack Standerton. It consisted of 160 waggons, 
which, at seven men each the usual average gave 
1100 men. 

This alarm caused the garrison renewed energy, and 

344 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, all day and night they toiled in erecting new works, 
two on kopjes to the north, about half a mile from 
erected, the town and the same distance apart ; another on 
the kopje to the east, above the graveyard; and a 
fourth in front of the fort, to assist the one already 
constructed on its right. An officer and twenty men 
occupied each of the new works. Thus the town 
was now protected on all sides on two by a line 
of small forts, while the main work and river covered 
the other two sides. 

After all, though, the expected attack did not come 
off ; but the waggons crossed the Vaal higher up, and 
passed on towards Laing's Nek. The place had, 
however, thus been rendered much more secure. 

A native There appear to have been over 300 male natives, 
who, it may be presumed, were employed in various 
ways about the place. Four of these men had been 
in custody for some time on suspicion of having been 
concerned in the murder of a half-caste at the com- 
mencement of hostilities. One day they managed to 
escape, pursued by the native guard. Three got away 
to the Boers on Stander's Kop ; but the fourth re- 
ceived an assegai wound in the leg, and was brought 
back. For this act the unfortunate man was ordered 
to be shot. We pass over the account of the disagree- 
able ceremony attending his death. 

The second sortie an ambush to surprise the enemy 
was apparently carried out on the 7th February. 
The Boer patrols, from their main laager two miles 


out in the Heidelberg direction had acquired a habit CHAP. 


of creeping through the long grass in the early morn- 
ing to within a few hundred yards, of our vedettes. 
In this way a horse was lost, though its rider came 
in unharmed. Such tactics being likely to render 
the men unsteady, a counter-plan was thought of 
the mounted men to make a feint of attacking a 
rocky position which the enemy had fortified with 
sconces about a mile to the right, in the hope of 
drawing the Boers from the main laager to their 
assistance across the front of an infantry party 
concealed in the dip of the valley between. 

To carry this out, Major Montague left the place 
with about seventy men at three o'clock on a dark 
morning a cold drizzling rain soon coming on. So 
dark does it appear to have been, that the party moved 
past one of the small forts on their left not a hundred 
yards distant without being seen by two sentries 
on the look-out for them. They followed the road 
leading to the laager until warned by a rope, which 
had been placed across the previous day, to turn off 
in extended order for 300 yards to the right. This 
movement had been, as was thought, most carefully 
executed ; and the men were about to lie down in 
the grass, when one of the officers discovered the 
outline of Stander's Kop showing to their front 
instead of their rear, as it should have done had 
they been facing the right way thus illustrating 
the difficulty of making night movements when even 
the stars afford no guidance. 

Facing about, the party lay hidden in the long 

346 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, grass. The' rain had ceased ; dawn came, bringing 


with it a cold wind, and making all feel colder still. 
A thousand yards away to their right front was the 
laager, with a house behind it. The sun had risen, 
and yet there was no sign given of the mounted men 
attacking. At length shots, soon followed by volleys 
and answering volleys on the right, told of their 
presence. At once figures were seen running up the 
hill over the laager to discover what was going on, 
while others were securing their horses out grazing 
and saddling up. Soon a few came on, by threes and 
fours, towards the right flank of the party in ambush 
stopping short, however, and dismounting under 
the rise, when they could be heard saying in Dutch : 
" Wait here, and we shall catch them." The fire on 
the right continuing, they remounted and moved off 
in its direction. 

Attention had hitherto been diverted to these men, 
when suddenly a big Boer afterwards known as Mr 
Otto w T as seen moving slowly along the front of 
the ambush party, with another well-known leader 
Mr Cronje beyond on a grey horse, followed by fifty 
men. In another moment the party would have been 
discovered, so, rising, Major Montague gave the order 
to fire. The Dutchman, bending over his horse's 
neck, rode off untouched. The men, cold and numbed, 
fired wildly at first, but more steadily afterwards 
at the man on the grey horse and the rest. Horses 
were galloping away without riders, and the re- 
mainder dashed forward for cover, and were soon 
firing from thence, about a hundred yards off. 


As more reinforcements appeared to be approach- CHAP. 
ing, Major Montague now deemed it prudent to fall 
back. The retirement was effected in regular order, 
skirmishing and firing, with but one wounded man 
the only casualty. The Boers are said to have after- 
wards admitted that eleven of their men had been 
knocked over. By the time the affair was ended, 
several hundred horsemen had shown on the hill 
just vacated, thus exhibiting the enemy's excellent 
organisation for quickly reinforcing a post attacked. 

The skirmish had a good effect on the Boers 
caused them to leave our vedettes alone, and " mis- 
trust every patch of grass that grew." 

A notable enterprise was one carried out by a Curious 

-i ic n enterprise. 

colour - sergeant, who, alter long abstinence irom 
liquor, spent an evening, indulging in several glasses, 
at the canteen, where a commissariat man, saying 
that he could take Stander's Kop with ten men, the 
sergeant, not to be outdone, declared he would do 
so with only five. He accordingly returned to his 
hut, called for five volunteers, and started with them 
for the top of Stander's Kop. About two hours 
afterwards a man came back from him saying that 
he was close to the top and required reinforcements. 
A party under an officer was sent out to bring him 
back, but returned at daylight without having been 
able to find him. In the meantime the sergeant and 
his men had occupied the sconce at the near end of 
the hill, overlooking the camp the post of the Boer 
picket by day and remained hidden until the next 

348 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, morning, when twenty Boers appearing, they were, 
greatly to their surprise, received with volleys, three 
being knocked over, and the remainder quickly dis- 

The difficulty now was to draw off these men and 
prevent their capture. All the troops were set in 
motion, skirmishing towards the Kop. Fifty Boers 
were seen riding along the top, and a similar party 
spread out at the base. Both sides opened fire, the 
sergeant's party meanwhile scrambling down the 
rocks, and, protected by our heavy fire, managing to 
gain the garden-wall below already referred to 
when the skirmishers were able to rescue them. 

The last The last shot an unfortunate one as it turned out 
fired during the investment, was on the llth March. 

O 7 

Waggons were seen approaching from the Newcastle 
direction, and the Boers beo;ari to show themselves 

7 O 

on their different positions. It looked as if a fresh 
laager was about to be formed. The sergeant in 
charge of the sharpshooters at the fort was directed 
to fire a shot, which he did with effect. 

Scarcely had the man fallen, when two Boers rode 
towards the drift carrying a large white flag. The 
river being at the time too high to be forded, a native 
was sent across swimming, who brought back a letter 
from the Boer commandant, enclosing a copy of the 
Armistice armistice agreement, and a private note from the 
officer in charge of the supplies forwarded. 

The consternation was great. The possibility of 
the negotiations resulting in peace does not seem to 


have been entertained, and the commanding officer 

OH A. Jr. 

issued .orders which pointed to the prolongation of vm - 

the War : being made 

mi f not eu t 

" The reinforcements are now on their way from tamed. 
England, and a further column is at Newcastle ; but 
as the final advance may not take place until the 
arrival of the reinforcements, it will be safer not to 
anticipate any relief until the end of April at the 
earliest. Up to that date supplies on the present 
scale have been calculated ; our forts are completed ; 
ammunition is ample ; and the health of the garrison 
and town is excellent." 

Nevertheless, peace was made ; and the notification 
thereof being received 011 the 26th March, the volun- 
teers were disbanded ; the troops withdrawn to the 
camp ; the Boers admitted into the town ; and the 
Landdrost reinstated to carry out the civil law as 

Thus was brought to a conclusion a uniformly 
well-sustained resistance, carried out with small loss 
only five men killed two privates of the 58th and 
one of the 94th Regiment, and two troopers of the 
mounted volunteers, during an investment which 
lasted eighty-eight days. The townspeople marked 
their appreciation of the conduct of the defence, and 
the treatment they themselves had received, by for- 
warding a complimentary address to the officer com- 
manding and the garrison under him. 1 

1 Major Montague was subsequently made a Companion of the Bath 
in recognition of his services ; Sergeant Patrick Sharkey, 94th Regi- 
ment, received the distinguished-conduct medal. 




CHAP. THE town a mere village, but with the usual dis- 


trict public offices, Dutch church, school, and stores, 
position! is properly called Marthinus Wesselstroom, but 
usually went by the name of the district of which it 
was the chief town. Surrounded by hills, some of 
which are within rifle-range, it lies in a hollow, with 
a river flowing along its north side, flooding a part of 
the flat during the rainy season, and thus affording 
protection from surprise in that quarter. The mili- 
tary camp and position were on the plateau and hills 
above, about a mile from, and partially overlooking 
the town. 

This elevated region of the Transvaal being reputed 
free from the ravages of horse - sickness, the head- 
quarters and larger portion of the King's Dragoon 
Guards were located here, as also the headquarters 
of the 58th Regiment, prior to these corps being 
withdrawn, in July and August, from the province. 
They were encamped on hills nearly a mile apart, 
with a declivity and stream between, the com- 


missariat stores and intrenchment being with the CHAP. 


58th Eegiment. When these troops left, only one 
company of the 94th Eegiment, under Captain Froom, 
replaced them. In accordance with instructions, Cap- 
tain Froom took up a position near that which the 
King's Dragoon Guards had vacated, completed a 
small fort, and moved into it the commissariat iron 
shed and supplies from the other side. 

Meanwhile the district was in a disturbed state. Disturb- 
Pressure was being exercised in the collection of taxes, ofthedis 
Payment in many cases was offered here, as else- 
where, conditionally on its being recognised that 
it was made under protest to the existing Govern- 
ment, but refused in this form. On the 3d Decem- 
ber, about one hundred, mounted Boers entered the 
town, with the view to intimidate the Landdrost, 
on account of some seizures he was about to make. 
Mr Schotz thereupon requested the assistance of the 
military ; but Captain Froom in accordance with 
the orders given to all the outposts, not to endan- 
ger the safety of the military position at any time 
through detaching too many men, or overweakening 
the post did not deem it prudent, with the small 
force he had at his disposal, to send any body of sol- 
diers into the town, though he himself rode down 
and watched the proceedings/ afterwards reporting 
the incident by telegraph to Pretoria. Instructions 
were sent from military headquarters to hasten the 
completion of the fort, and have all in readiness 
for any emergency that might arise. Captain Froom, 

352 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, having been relieved by Captain Saunders with two 
companies of the 58th Kegiment, left with his com- 
pany on the 17th December, for Standerton. An 
account of his march has been given in the latter 
part of Chapter II. 

Arrival ot Leaving Newcastle on the 14th December, with four 

Captain ., . 

companies oi infantry and thirty -three ox-waggons, 
Captain Saunders reached Mount Prospect where Sir 
George Colley later on established his camp early 
the following morning. There a young Englishman 
delivered a message informing him that a force of 
Boers was on the Transvaal border, under Comman- 
dant Van der SchijfF, who had orders to prevent the 1 
troops crossing. Proceeding on, considerable delay 
was experienced four to five hours in passing the 
waggons over a difficult spruit in the vicinity of 
Alajuba Hill and Laing's Nek. Six mounted Boers 
were seen on a hill to the right, but these soon 
rode away, and Laing's Nek was crossed and Cold- 
stream reached the same evening. Two of the com- 
panies and the convoy of commissariat waggons, in- 
tended for Standerton, were detached to join Captain 
Froom's party coming from Wakkerstroom. Con- 
tinuing his march at daybreak, Captain Saunders, 
with his two companies, arrived at his destination on 
the afternoon of the 16th. 

On the 18th, a special messenger brought intelli- 
gence from Standerton that the Boers, having occu- 
pied Heidelberg, had proclaimed the Republic. The 
following day, not being; able to communicate with 

O / ' O 


Pretoria the telegraph line having been destroyed CHAP. 
in that direction for some days Captain Saunders 
succeeded in passing a message through to Pietermar- 
itzburg, inquiring whether the country was to be con- 
sidered in a state of war ; how far he would be justi- 
fied in proceeding to extreme measures with armed 
parties approaching the town or camp ; and whether 
a detachment should be sent to hold the town. No 
reply was received for some days, the line having 
apparently been damaged. But on the 24th it had 
again been put in working order, and messages were 
received from Major Montague who had just reached 
Standerton and the Deputy Adjutant-General at 
Pietermaritzburg. The former officer told of the 
Bronkhorst Spruit disaster, and gave a warning 
against being deceived by parties attempting to ap- 
proach under flags of truce. Colonel Deane intimated instruc- 
that a copy of Sir George Colley's instructions for the 

guidance of officers commanding garrisons would be 
forwarded ; meanwhile armed parties approaching the 
camp or town, refusing to answer when challenged, 
were to be fired upon ; on other matters of defence 
Captain Saunders was to exercise his own discretion. 
A message also from Sir George Colley directed the Volunteers 
Landdrost to call a meetinsr of the loyal inhabitants or the town 

r. i T -i MI called for. 

ol the district, so as to ascertain now many were will- 
ing to take up arms in defence of the town, in con- 
junction with the military. The meeting was held 
the same day, about eighty persons attending. At 
the commencement of the proceedings every one was 
required to sign a declaration, to the effect that he 


354 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, was a loyal subject of her Majesty; whereupon about 
thirty people left the Court-house. The object of 
the meeting having been explained, Captain Saunders 
offered to furnish thirty soldiers for the defence of the 
town, provided a similar number of volunteers would 
join them. More than that number having given in 
their names, a picket of an officer and thirty-three 
men was sent to occupy the Court-house, which was 
then placed in a state of defence. 

The last post-cart, bringing letters from Pretoria, 
arrived on the 22d December. All letters had been 
opened at Heidelberg, those of an official nature, 
containing orders or instructions, retained ; but pri- 
vate ones, after being marked in red ink, " Z. A. R." 
South African Republic allowed to pass. 

projected Captain Saunders received information of an in- 

capture of . , r -i T> i 

the town tention on the part 01 the .Boers to enter the town 

frustrated. _ - . 

in large numbers, under pretext of attending the 
Nachtmaal, then being held in the Dutch church. 
Their arms were to be hidden in a waggon, and, when 
opportunity offered, distributed, and an endeavour 
made to take possession of the town. Orders were 
therefore given to watch all waggons, and prevent 
their being drawn up in the market-square in such a 
manner as readily to form a laager. Had any large 
number of Boers come in, Captain Saunders intended 
searching the waggons. On the 26th, however, the 
last day of the Nachtmaal, a mounted man brought 
a letter, which had the effect of causing the Boers 
hastily to leave the church, although the service 


was not concluded, inspan their oxen, and quit the CHAP. 

As soon as the Boers had left, the military a pro- Town de- 
test made by the Dutch minister notwithstanding 
took possession of the church to form a central defen- 
sive station, and fortified the building. The Court- 
house being commanded by the church, at a distance 
of a hundred yards, was considered untenable, and 
thereupon dismantled, and the public records re- 
moved. The upper or western side of the town was, 
besides, hidden from it by rising ground, whereas 
the church had a good look-out all round. The daily 
process of relieving the town detachment being found 
to weaken the garrison at the fort for the time, as 
well as render the party liable to be cut off going or 
returning in the event of sudden attack, a permanent 
detachment of the same strength was given, from the 
28th December, under Lieutenant Eead, furnished 
with two hundred rounds per man, and twenty-one 
days' provisions. Two stores Murray's and Richard's 
were also placed in a proper state for defence and 
occupation by volunteers. Of the latter, about forty- 
five had been enrolled, mostly mounted. 

A refugee having brought intelligence that the 
Boers were to hold a large meeting at Graskop, 
eighteen miles off, on the 28th, preparatory to attack- 
ing the place, Mr Fawcus, C.E., volunteered to pro- 
ceed there and endeavour to ascertain their intentions. 
Private Osborne, dressed in civilian's clothes, was sent 
with him. The latter returned the same night, but 
Mr Fawcus remained a couple of days, at great risk 

356 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, to himself, until the termination of the meeting. It 


appeared that the Boers had really intended to attack ; 
but, finally, learning that the Court - house had been 
vacated, and the church taken by the military as their 
chief position, they had been greatly disappointed, 
and had abandoned the idea. Their plan was, by 
sending 200 men to occupy the hills north and east 
of the fort, to prevent the garrison thence assisting 
the town ; then, with the remainder of their force, to 
have made an attack on it. A portion, by keeping 
up a fire from the low ground by the river to prevent 
the soldiers leaving the Court - house, while their 
main body crossed the drift below the town, and, 
working round under cover of sloping ground, sought 
by a rush to gain possession of the church, when the 
fall of the Court - house would follow. 

The enemy established a cordon round the fort and 
town, detachments locating themselves in farmhouses 
in the immediate vicinity, which had been deserted 
by their owners from 60 to 100 men in each the 
commandant of the district being Mr Van Staden. 

The Boer watch, however, was not so strictly kept 
but that messages were regularly sent to, and received 
from Newcastle, during the investment. Natives 
were more successfully employed in their conveyance 
than white men. On the 30th December two civilians 
attempted to carry despatches to Newcastle, but both 
were captured at the Slang river, though afterwards 
released. Then, the following day, Mr Fawcus 
already spoken of endeavoured to get away, but was 


made prisoner through being unable to extricate his CHAP. 
horse from a mud-hole it had sunk into. The Boers 
stripped him, and took away his clothes, but failed to 
discover the despatch he was carrying. They then 
threatened to shoot him ; but through the intercession' 
of one of them, a former friend, he was released, and 
his clothes given back, when he returned to Wakker- 
stroom, still with the despatch. 

The same despatch was now given to a native to 
carry. Starting some time before daylight, he also 
was taken prisoner at Slang river. But, fortunately, 
he had caught sight of his captors before they had 
seen him, so he quickly turned back, to give them 
the impression that he was going towards Wakker- 
stroom. He was searched and questioned, but nothing 
was found on him, and he declared he was merely 
looking for cattle that had strayed. Being then 
allowed to go, he started as if for Wakkerstroom ; but 
the Boers threatened to shoot him if he persisted in 
going in that direction, and told him that if he wanted 
his life he had better go back to Newcastle, which he 
did, and delivered his despatch safely. This same 
Kafir used to carry messages in and out weekly. The 
letter was written very small, rolled round a thin wire, 
placed in a quill, and then hidden in his thick hair. 
Thus delivered to him, he was left to choose his own 
time and mode of departure, which was effected with- 
out the knowledge of a soul. Although the sentries 
were most desirous to show their alertness by report- 
ing his departure or return, yet he was never once 
challenged either when leaving or entering the town. 

358 THE TEANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Many Kafirs came in from the neighbouring kraals, 
bringing their cattle, and asking for protection from 
come* in for the Boers, who were commandeering their live stock. 
They were located in tents and vacated houses in the 
town, and rations given to them. Being required to 
watch their own oxen and sheep, they made excellent 
scouts, and proved of great service, giving the alarm 
on the least occasion. 

Frequent raids were made by the enemy in their 
endeavours to capture the horses, mules, cattle, and 
sheep belonging to the garrison, townspeople, or 
natives. On the 10th January about a hundred 
Boers came round and over the high hill to the south 
of the town, while others took up their positions on 
a plateau above the jail. Then, under cover of a 
heavy fire, which engaged the attention of the defend- 
ers, four Boers rode down the hill, and succeeded in 
driving off eighty head of cattle and thirty young 
horses, belonging to two civilians, which were grazing 
with other herds close by. Two sons of Umtonga, a 
brother of Cetywayo boys of only thirteen and 
fourteen years of age distinguished themselves on 
this occasion. Seeing the danger from similar cap- 
ture of a large herd of cattle belonging to the natives, 
they bravely rode out under a hot fire, and brought 
them in by themselves, merely remarking " We have 
done nothing except what should be expected of us. 
If these cattle had been taken by the Boers, we 
should no longer be the sons of a chief." 

skirmishes. Numerous skirmishes took place about the fort, 


the enemy frequently occupying the kopjes to the CHAP. 
north and east, whence, from long range, they could 
command the camp and intrenchment. On the 3d 
January they succeeded in wounding five oxen and 
two mules, grazing with others in the vicinity. The 
surgeon's horse was wounded on the 7th January, 
when inside the fort ; and it being found that bullets 
frequently struck the interior slope of the parapet on 
the entrance and right faces, traverses were erected 
for better protection in this quarter. The men's arms 
and ammunition were placed, from before daybreak 
until evening, in readiness on the parapet of the fort ; 
but any man employed on fatigue - duty, or requir- 
ing to proceed more than 200 yards away from 
the camp, always went armed. This latter order was 
found very useful on one occasion by a party of 
soldiers who were interrupted when bathing below, 
by finding that they were being practised at with 
Boer rifles. Quickly taking cover behind some rocks, 
they were soon able to cause their assailants, who 
imagined them unarmed, to beat a retreat. The tents 
were pitched outside the fort, with doors facing in- 
wards, and with a low bullet-proof sod wall round 
each. In case of alarm, the tents were struck, and 
the men doubled into the fort, taking up their posi- 
tion in rear of their respective rifles. This prevented 
confusion, and liability of arms, &c., being left in the 
tents. In skirmishes of an ordinary kind, at long 
distances, the ammunition was not allowed to be 
wasted by any general fire, but was only returned 
by marksmen. 


CHAP. It was believed that the enemy had several men 
placed hors de combat in the different skirmishes, 
riderless horses being occasionally seen, and men ap- 
parently being assisted off the ground. 

An old 4-pounder howitzer of doubtful soundness 
was discovered in the town, arid being mounted on 
the body of a water-cart, was occasionally run in and 
out of the fort and exercised by the men, thus answer- 
ing the intended purpose, and making an impression on 
the Boers, who watched these proceedings from afar. 

MrFawcus Mr Fawcus who had previously done such good 

taken pris- in ^ 

oner, but and gallant service was taken prisoner on the llth 


January. Firing had been going on for nearly two 
hours between 120 Boers and our mounted men from 
the town, when the former at last fell back on Keat's 
Farm, a mile and a half away. Some of the Boers were 
afterwards seen returning to their camp, lying further 
off, and leaving behind a tempting large quantity of 
ready-cut forage on the ground. Thereupon Mr Fawcus 
went out to reconnoitre, and had approached to within 
200 yards of the garden, when he was fired upon. 
Turning his horse quickly, the animal slipped upon 
the soft ground, and Mr Fawcus fell into the hands 
of six Boers who rode out after him. He managed, 
however, to throw his rifle and ammunition into the 
long grass by the roadside, and there they were found 
by our men a few days later. About eighty Boers had 
remained hidden behind the garden wall, in the hope 
that a party would have been sent out with a waggon 
to fetch in the forage. After a detention of ten days 


in Joubert's camp, then about five miles off, on the CHAP. 
road to Meek's, he was taken to Coldstream, eight 
miles from Laing's Nek ; and while his escort were 
engaged drinking in the store there, he managed to 
secure a horse from the stable ready saddled, and 
make his way into Newcastle. 

On the 20th January, information having been Boermove- 

,.,,, n ments. 

obtained that the enemy were collecting on the south- 
west side, and contemplated a night attack on the 
town, first gaining possession of Michaelson's store 
the owner of which was with the Boers Captain 
Saunders sent twelve additional men from the fort 
to hold a corner house, adjoining this store, which 
occupied a good position for defence in that quarter, 
and, Murray's store opposite being already garrisoned, 
would subject the enemy to a cross-fire should the 
attempt be made. The next day, however, a Kafir 
brought intelligence that the enemy's plans had been 
suddenly altered, and that their force in the vicinity 
had received orders to return to Meek's, to be in 
readiness to arrest the advance of the British troops, 
which was expected to take place in a couple of days, 
from Newcastle. 

A successful raid on Boer cattle and horses was 
carried out on the 30th January. The animals having 
been observed collected round Neudee's Farm, one of 
the enemy's posts in the vicinity, Captain Saunders 
assembled forty mounted volunteers, under their com- 
manding officer, Captain Archer, and twenty six of 
whom were mounted of the 58th Regiment, under 

362 THE TRANSVAAL WAK, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Captain Power, at the camp ; and then despatched 
- the former to search the east kopje, where two Boer 
vedettes were usually stationed, while Captain Power, 
with the infantry, took up a position on high ground 
overlooking Neudee's Farm. The Boer vedettes 
noticing these movements, rode down to the house 
and gave an alarm, when the remainder of their party 
were quickly in the saddle, driving their horses and 
cattle away, over the high range of hills in the Lune- 
berg direction. They were immediately pursued by 
our mounted men, and a sharp fire commenced. Some 
of the Boers were wounded, and one of their horses 
galloped back into our hands. The infantry then 
advanced and entered the house. Finding the enemy's 
dinners inside ready-cooked, they very soon disposed 
of them, and with much enjoyment. Over eighty 
pairs of blankets, some rugs, arms, cooking-pots, and 
provisions were brought in, which proved very accept- 
able to the besieged garrison. The Boers were followed 
by the mounted men for some four miles, the skirmish 
lasting four hours. One hundred and thirty horses 
and fifteen head of cattle were taken, and kraaled in 
the town. Some of the captured horses were utilised 
for bringing in the forage and other spoil. 

In the afternoon of the same day the river and 
spruits became very flooded, through the bursting of 
a waterspout in the vicinity. During the night the 
enemy reoccupied Neudee's Farm, and reinforced the 
post to double the original number. This was known 
at the fort ; but the town garrison being unaw r are of 
it, twenty mounted volunteers went out in the morn- 


ing to collect more forage at Neudee's Farm, when, on CHAP. 
approaching the house, they were fired upon, and had 
to beat a hasty retreat. On account of the swollen 
state of the river, no assistance could be given from 
the camp. During the retirement, a lad of sixteen, 
named Hilder, whose horse broke down, being left in 
rear, dismounted, turned his horse loose, and lay down 
behind a rock with his rifle. An advanced party of 
four Boers were coming on, without perceiving him, 
when he fired at the leading man, at only sixty yards' 
distance, shooting him through the breast, so that he 
dropped dead off his horse. His three companions at 
once turned and rode down the hill to rejoin their 
main body, who also refrained from advancing until 
Hilder had had time to follow his comrades. 

After this, to obviate difficulties in communication 
when the river became impassable, Captain Saunders 
ingeniously contrived to construct a telephone, to 
work between his tent at the camp and Lieutenant 
Eead's quarter in the town, utilising for the purpose 
some portion of the telegraph wire left undestroyed 
by the enemy. 

On the 22d February a skirmish commenced sharp 
through an attempt made by a party of Boers to s 
cut off some natives returning from visiting their 
kraals, lying to the north-west of the camp. Captain 
Saunders, seeing their clanger, telephoned to the 
town for a party of mounted volunteers to be sent 
to cover their retreat. Fire was opened, then the 
Boers were reinforced, and a sergeant and fifteen men 

364 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, of the 58th Regiment, with five mounted infantry - 
- men, left the camp to assist the volunteers. In 
the course of the skirmish one party of the enemy 
retired along a valley, between the north and east 
kopjes, whereupon the mounted infantrymen detached 
themselves from the volunteers to ride after them, 
and had gone about 160 yards before they noticed 
that another party of about forty Boers were gallop- 
ing down a hill some distance to the west, and work- 
ing round to get in their rear. The soldiers, hav- 
ing remounted their horses, attempted to join their 
comrades on the north kopje, but two of their horses 
were soon wounded and another killed. Private 
Mayes, one of those thus dismounted, was also shot 
in the leg while on the ground, and fell on his face 
into the long grass. Private Bennett was pursued 
by seven or eight Boers, who fired at but missed 
him. Having his own rifle loaded, and one of them 
coming up and galloping alongside of him, he fired 
over-arm and shot him. Another Boer now came 
up, and, striking him between the shoulders with his 
rifle, knocked him off his horse. The Boer then dis- 
mounted, reloaded his rifle, and deliberately fired at 
him at only fifteen paces off, the bullet shattering his 
leg. He lay hidden in the long grass for nearly two 
hours, and might probably have continued longer, 
but that one of the Boers moving about having dis- 
covered him, waved a white cloth and planted it by 
him to mark the spot where he was and show that 
lie required help. As soon as the enemy had with- 
drawn, a stretcher - party was sent out, about two 


miles, from the fort to bring the poor fellow in. CHAP. 
Amputation followed, but too much blood had al- - 
ready been lost for the operation to prove success- 
ful, and he died the same evening. One of the 
infantry party on the kopje was likewise mortally 

The conduct of Private Osborne, 58th Kegiment, Gallant 


one of the mounted men on this occasion, deserves of Private 


special mention. Seeing Private Mayes fall in the 
long grass, he watched the spot, when, Mayes rising 
and attempting to run but again falling, he rightly 
conjectured that he was only wounded, and deter- 
mined to go out to bring him in. He appealed to a 
volunteer to let him have his horse to lead to the 
assistance of his comrade, but without effect, the 
volunteer urging that no one could reach the wound- 
ed man under such a fire. Osborne thereupon rode 
straight from the cover he was under to the spot 
where he had seen Mayes fall, between 200 and 300 
yards in front of a line of forty-two Boers. Having 
come up to Mayes, he managed to drag him up 
behind on his horse, and slinging Mayes's rifle over 
his own shoulder, remarked that " the Boers should 
not get even that." Meanwhile every available man 
had kept up a rapid but accurate fire on the Boers. 
Both the men and horse escaped, though bullets were 
striking all around them, one hitting Osborne's rifle 
close to where he had hold of it, cutting away the 
wood-work under the back-sight. 1 As far as could 
be ascertained, the enemy had six men killed and 

1 The Victoria Cross was awarded for this gallant deed. 

366 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, wounded in this skirmish, who were carried away 
- in two spring-carts to an adjoining farm. 

Armistice. News of the disaster incurred at Majuba Hill, and 
death of Sir George Colley, was obtained on the 3d 
March ; and on the 8th a flag of truce delivered a 
letter purporting to give the terms of an eight days' 
armistice entered into. The envelope was headed 
" On Service Z. A. Republic," and franked " P. Jou- 
bert," but the contents were unvouched for by any 
British authority. Two days later, another Boer 
messenger informed the commanding officer that, in 
accordance with the conditions of the armistice, a 
waggon, with provisions for 140 men for eight days, 
had arrived, in charge of an English officer and a 
conductor, which had been unloaded a mile and a 
half away, as no communication could be allowed 
between the parties ; and that, therefore, a waggon 
should be sent from the camp to fetch the supplies. 
Captain Saunders informed the messenger that he 
had had no official intimation of the genuineness of 
the armistice ; that until he received instructions 
from his general, or was satisfied on that point, he 
must decline to send a waggon ; and further, that he 
should not require any provisions for either the 
townspeople or troops for the next seven months ! 
The flag of truce, however, again appeared shortly 
after this interview, and satisfied Captain Saunders, 
by showing him a paper of instructions, signed by 
Sir Evelyn Wood, for the officer in charge of the 


On the 17th March another Boer letter arrived, CHAP. 
stating that the armistice had been extended four 
days, a similar indifferently written document to 
the former one, but still no accompanying voucher 
which could justify any officer in acting on its con- 
tents. Two days afterwards four more days' pro- 
visions were received, when the officer in charge 


confirmed the Boer notification. The Boers who had 
accompanied the waggon declared that peace w T as as 
good as concluded, and that there would be no more 
fighting, for " Mr Wood " said that too many men 
had been lost, and he did not intend to lose any more. 
They swaggered a good deal about Majuba, and the 
rifles they had captured from the English ; at the 
same time acknowledging that they were very glad 
that the war was to be at an end, as the weather was 
very trying, and they could not have stayed much 
longer at the Nek, owing to the want of grass. 

Finally, on the 24th March, Lieutenant Gossett, Notifica- 
95th Regiment, arrived, bearing a despatch from head- peace. 
quarters, notifying that peace had been made. Asked 
to dine with the officers, the messenger of peace at 
first demurred, having pictured to himself a starved 
garrison after having undergone three months' in- 
vestment, and proposed that he should be allowed 
to bring his own ration of tinned meat and biscuit. 
He was agreeably surprised to find himself sitting- 
down to a comfortable meal, made most appetising by 
an excellent cook from the ranks soup, tinned salmon, 
an entree, a large fat turkey, curry, macaroni and 
cheese, salad, &c. and the good fare washed down 

368 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, by beer, sherry, and a magnum of champagne. In 
fact Wakkerstroom was never at a loss for provisions. 
Flour certainly had been used up by the 20th Janu- 
ary, and biscuits were then served out ; but, only that 
ammunition might have become scarce, the place 
could have held out for several months longer. 

The terms of the peace, therefore, brought disap- 
pointment to all. Outspoken regret was heard on all 
sides. That, with large reinforcements at hand, peace 
negotiations should have been entered upon, while 
the Boers still retained hold of the posts they had 
taken up in Natal itself, and that the British relief 
column should, by the provisions acquiesced in by a 
British general, be debarred from occupying these 
posts, much less set foot on Transvaal territory, or 
join the comrades they were intended to succour in 
the lately besieged garrisons, was almost incredible, 
and a bitter pill to swallow. 1 

1 Captain Saunders aftenvards received a step in rank in recognition 

of his service?. 




As soon as the several English military posts in the CHAP. 
Transvaal had been invested by the Boers, and com- 
munication with them cut off, the main body of the bodyofTh 
enemy assembled in the neighbourhood of the Natal ei 
border, with the object of disputing the entrance of 
any relief column from that direction. And when it 
was clearly ascertained that the English reinforce- 
ments were advancing from Newcastle, intending to 
cross into the Transvaal at Coldstream, the Boer 
general at once forestalled them, crossed the border invades 
into Natal for about ten miles, and occupied the 
position of Laing's Nek. Then, the English head- 
quarter camp having been formed at Mount Prospect, 
four miles from the Nek, General Joubert, finding 
that there was no mounted force to prevent him, sent 
his patrols still further into Natal, thus interrupting 
Sir George Colley's line of communication to the 
rear, with Newcastle, and even beyond, through the 
Biggarsberg, with Ladysmith. 

It is not our present purpose to describe the carn- 

2 A 

370 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, paign in these parts, or to detail the successive efforts 
made by Sir George Colley to roll back the invasion 
of the colony, and force the Boers from the positions 
they had taken up on Natal territory. We only write 
of the English garrisons and forces in the Transvaal, 
and in speaking of the Natal Column shall only refer 
to some of the causes which appear to have operated 
to prevent the latter even w r hen reinforcements had 
joined it from England from reaching or relieving 
the former, but led, instead, to peace negotiations 
which were not, and cannot be now regarded with 
satisfaction from an English point of view. 

Premature By prematurely moving forward from Newcastle, 
made by before his cavalry reinforcements could reach him, 

Sir George 

Coiley Sir George Colley not only showed the enemy by 

from New- . . 

castie, which road he intended to strike into the Transvaal 
thus losing the chance, by feints and forced marches, 
of seizing the more advantageous positions on the 
route before the enemy could occupy them in force 
but he rendered his line of communication behind 
him difficult, and liable to be cut at any moment. 

And iii making his headquarters at Mount Pros- 
5> _ i 

pect, he placed his column iii much the same position, 
with communications cut, as that at the time occu- 
pied by the garrison of Pretoria one among others 
intended to be relieved by this very column with 
this difference in his favour, that his force, while 
more considerable, consisted wholly of regular troops ; 
and that he was not embarrassed with a large civil 


population of doubtful tendencies in the midst of his CHAP. 
camp. To carry the comparison further : although 
the total force of his enemy was greater than that 
latterly investing Pretoria, yet it may be doubted if 
the number of Boers actually encountered in the 
several actions of Laing's Nek, Ingogo, and Majuba 
Hill, much exceeded those met with by much smaller 
columns, traversing over longer distances, in the sorties 
made by the garrison of Pretoria. 

That, when the Boer rising was first known to him, Mistaken 
Sir George Colley wholly underrated the power and of Boer 


ability of the foe he would shortly have to contend 
against, is evident from a remark he makes on the 
19th December, when writing to the Secretary of 
State for the Colonies : " The military force which I 
shall have at my disposal in the Transvaal when the 
reinforcements those from Natal have all joined, 
will, I think, be sufficient for the task devolving on 
them." l This was the more strange after the warn- 
ings given, months before, by Colonel Bellairs, against 
the premature reduction of the troops in the Trans- 
vaal, and pointing out the necessity of retaining the 
cavalry regiment. Again, on the 21st December, 
Colonel Bellairs writes from Pretoria : " Large rein- 
forcements are urgently necessary, especially cavalry. 
There must be six or seven thousand rebels in the 
field, who, under good leadership, exhibit courage, 
discipline, and organisation." : Yet, notwithstanding 

1 See Blue-book (c. 2783), Feb. 1881, Xo. 37. 

2 Sir George Colley subsequently found that this estimate of the Boer 
forces, made by Colonel Bellairs on the 21st December, was moderate. 
On the 12th January he writes : " The reports of the forces the Boers 

372 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, these recommendations, and the lesson conveyed by 
the disaster experienced at Bronkhorst Spruit, all 
pointing to the impossibility of successfully moving 
through the country without cavalry, the Belief 
Column, collected at Newcastle, was pushed on to 
Mount Prospect with only about a hundred mounted 
men attached to it. 1 

So confident was Sir George Colley of his ability to 
cope with the insurrection, that, though he had been 
informed of the Boers, to the number of from 4000 
to 6000, having taken possession of Heidelberg and 
established their Government there on the 16th 
December, he wrote, three days later, notifying his 
intention to advance with a column eight companies 
of infantry, two field and two mountain guns, and 
only two troops of mounted men and expectation 
of reaching Standerton about the 20th January. 2 

have actually in the field vary very much from 7000 to 16,000. I am 
induced to think that the first number is nearest the truth. Of these, 
about one-half are said to be at the headquarter camp ; the rest distrib- 
uted in corps detached to watch Potchefstroom, Pretoria, &c., and to 
dispute my advance." 

1 About seventy or eighty of the Natal Mounted Police also accom- 
panied the column, but were not intended to cross into the Transvaal. 

2 Sir G. Pomeroy Colley to Sir 0. Lanyon. 

" December 19, 1880. 

" I am sending up at once four companies 58th, and two companies 
GOth, and two field and two mountain guns ; two troops, one of mounted 
infantry, and one furnished from detachments King's Dragoon Guards 
and Army Service Corps now here; and two more companies GOth will 
follow in a few days. Whole should be concentrated at Standerton 
about 20th January. Deane goes up to Newcastle to make arrange- 
ments, and will take command under me, of forces on this side Heidel- 
berg. I follow early in January. No movement of troops which can 
possibly bring a collision should take place pending my arrival with 


The receipt of the details of Bronkhorst Spruit dis- CHAP. 
aster did not alter this sanguine view ; and about the - 
20th January was, at the beginning of that month, 
still mentioned as the probable time for the arrival of 
the Relief Column at Standerton. 1 

It was not, however, until the 24th January that 
Sir George Colley moved from Newcastle, thus select- 
ing the most direct route to the Transvaal, but one 
presenting greater difficulties than the road leading 
to AVakkerstroom. 2 

Arrived at Mount Prospect, all contributed to impel Forward 
Sir George Colley to make a forward movement and determined 
adventure an attack on Laing's Nek, without waiting 
for the reinforcements which, at the close of January, 
were drawing near, the immediate proximity of the 
enemy in front of the headquarter camp barring fur- 
ther progress ; a natural desire to be doing something 
towards the relief of the Transvaal garrisons, and free 
Natal from the Boer inroad ; and perhaps, above all, 
the feeling that some military advantage should be 

reinforcements. I trust 94th have reached Pretoria and Standerton 
without molestation. Please keep me informed by all possible oppor- 
tunities, and communicate this to Bellairs." (C. 2783.) 

1 Chapter iii. p. 165. 

2 In his despatch of the 1st February 1881, Sir George Colley thus 
alludes to the motives which induced him to move forward from New- 
castle on the 24th January : " The column thus formed was small in 
numbers and somewhat heterogeneous. But no further reinforcements 
could reach me for at least three weeks ; and having regard to the effect 
of such delay on Pretoria, where the loyal population had had to take 
refuge in the camp, and is undergoing all the miseries of a close siege, 
and in Potchefstroom, where the garrison is scantily supplied and can 
scarcely hold out much longer, I decided to move forward at once with 
the force at my disposal." 

374 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, gained before the increasing disposition shown in 
'- England to offer terms of peace could have effect. 
Action of On the morning of the 28th January, without 

Laing's i i 

Nek. attempt to conceal his movements under the cover ot 
night, Sir George Colley moved out from his camp, 
taking with him about 900 infantry, 180 mounted 
men, 1 and six guns. Halting below, and out of fire 
from the enemy's position, an amphitheatre of hills, 
the Majuba on their right and other hills rising to 
the left, connected by a "nek" of table-land some 
2000 yards in length, the road gradually rising and 
passing over the centre of the Nek, Sir George Colley 
remained with the reserve, including the guns, to the 
right of the road. Five companies of the 58th Eegi- 
ment were sent to scale the high ridge to our right 
of the Nek, while at the same time 9.30 P.M. the 
mounted troops left to attack a conical hill in advance 
of from the enemy's side and connected with the 
ridge about to be stormed by the infantry. The two 
attacks were not, however, delivered simultaneously. 
The mounted troops, gallantly as they charged up the 
steep hill, were soon, through heavy loss, obliged to 
give way and retire, thus releasing the Boers who 
defended that portion of their position, in time to 
move round and pour in a fire on the right rear of 
the 58th Regiment, then struggling up the sides of 
the lofty ridge. The five companies, instead of being 
left to the leading of their own officers, with the com- 
manding officer of the regiment at their head, were 
led into action by the Deputy Adjutant-General who 

1 Including the Xatal Mounted Police ; see ante, note J , p. 372. 


had been placed in command of the Natal Column CHAP. 
and three other staff officers. These, being mounted 
and pushing forward too eagerly in front, rendered 
the advance unnecessarily hurried, thus bringing the 

J * O O 

men under fire in a breathless condition, and less 
fitted to cope with the situation. Though encounter- 
ing an accurate fire from the front and right rear, 
they still endeavoured to get up the steep incline ; but 
dash and daring, conspicuous in this as it was also in 
the cavalry attack, was of no avail. The enemy's 
fire proved too destructive, and, after very serious 
losses, a retirement had to be effected. The reverse 
caused a loss of 7 officers and 76 men killed, and 2 
officers and 110 men wounded. 

It was obviously all - important politically and 

,. , -\-\c-\ -11 tions on 

otherwise that no doubtful encounter with the ene- action at 
my should be risked. A decisive defeat of the Boers Nek. 
in the first serious conflict would have gone far 
towards bringing about divisions in their counsels, 
and lessening resistance to the advance of the Eelief 
Column, besides facilitating peace on the basis of the 
overtures already made. It should have been equally 
clear that the force Sir George Colley had with him 
from the deficiency of cavalry was, for further 
advance, wholly inadequate to protect a daily increas- 
ing line of communication, against the large bodies 
of mounted men the enemy could bring up at any 
point. The attack, then, of the enemy's position on 
the 28th January can only be regarded as another 
error, following close upon the initial mistake made 

376 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, in prematurely moving the column from New- 

The manner in which the divided attack was carried 
out at Laing's Nek, the two hills not being stormed 
simultaneously, and no supports being forthcoming 
was destined to cause failure. Had the advance from 
the camp been made before dawn, and an attack de- 
livered at daybreak on the centre of the Nek the 
rise to which was comparatively gentle the same 
marked courage and determination of the troops 
would, it may be conjectured, have stood a better 
chance of obtaining the success deserved, with prob- 
ably fewer casualties ; but even then, it may be 
doubted if such success could have been followed up. 

Another error may perhaps be noticed, as contrib- 
uting, if not to the failure of the attack, at all events 
to the increase in the number of casualties incurred 
the staff heading the attacking infantry body. 
Surely the proper province of the staff officers was 
to have reserved themselves for the work of general 
supervision and direction of the movements taking 
place around them, rather than impulsively rushing 
forward to head a charge, and lead into action a small 
body of infantry attacking a hill, thus usurping the 
duties of the regimental officers. No doubt there may 
be occasions when the interference of staff officers 
in such a way is desirable or even necessary, as 
when troops show signs of unsteadiness, or a tendency 
to give way and require rallying. But in this instance 
no such reason can be advanced. The demeanour of 
the 58th Eegiment was all that could be desired. 


The affair of the Ing-osro, which followed that of CHAP. 


Laing's Nek, eleven days later, was the natural out- 
come of the forward position prematurely taken up the in 
by Sir George Colley, with insufficient means for 
guarding his communications, and, at the same time, 
keeping the attention of the enemy occupied in his 
front. The repulse previously inflicted by the Boers 
had taught them their power to arrest the further 
advance of the British column, as then constituted, 
and enabled them to turn their attention to intercept- 
ing its line of communications. Thus it came about 
that, with the intention of giving a safe-conduct to 
his mail to Newcastle, which had been stopped the 
previous day by a strong patrol of the enemy, Sir 
George Colley himself accompanied a small column 
five companies of the 60th Rifles, a detachment of 
thirty-eight mounted men, 1 two field and two moun- 
tain guns to patrol the road for part of the way. 
No rations were taken. The movement was effected 
by daylight within sight of the enemy. The Ingogo 
was crossed, one company of the Rifles and the two 
mountain guns being left on a commanding point on 
the near side of the river, five miles distant from 
the camp. About noon, having surmounted the ridge 
and gained the plateau beyond, some three miles from 
the river, the troops were vigorously attacked on all 
sides by the Boers. For upwards of five hours their 
attack was maintained, to the disadvantage of our 

1 The Natal Mounted Police had, after the action of Laing's Xek, 
been sent back to Newcastle to guard against raids in that part of the 

378 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, men ; and only darkness and a heavy storm coming 
on enabled the remnant of the column with difficulty 
to steal away, leaving their killed and wounded on 
the ground. 

While the action was proceeding, Sir George Colley 
had managed to send an order to the camp, directing 
that three companies of the 58th Regiment should be 
sent to guard the Ingogo drift ; and this force being 
found in possession at the close of the day, is said to 
have caused the enemy to desist from an intention to 
occupy that position, and so cut off Sir George Colley's 
chance of retreat. As it was, the Boers expected to 
be able to renew their attack the following morning, 
all the artillery and other horses being believed by 
them to have been killed, and the removal of the 
guns thus prevented. But for favourable circum- 
stances occurring the heavy storm of rain, intense 
darkness, and the absence of any efficient watch on 
the enemy's part the retreat could scarcely have 
been successfully carried out. Indeed it may be 
surmised that, had the Boers become aware of Sir 
George Colley's intention to retreat, taking his guns 
with him, they would quickly have followed up the 
victory they had already gained, and have beaten 
in detail the troops left with Sir George Colley 
and those guarding the Ingogo drift. The capture 
of the camp, with the few men then left in it, would 
have completed the annihilation of the headquarter 
column. As it was, the following casualties re- 
sulted : 5 officers and 61 men killed, and 4 officers 
and G8 men wounded. 


Had Sir George Colley left the command of this CHAP. 
patrol to his next senior officer, remaining himself - 
in the camp or its immediate vicinity, in constant 
communication, by prearranged signalling, with the 
advanced body, there can be no doubt he would 
have been more within his province, and have been 
better placed to create a diversion or render assist- 
ance, and that, at least, no worse results would have 

Another interval occurred of nearly three weeks, Action at 
during which a portion of the reinforcements had ran. 
come up Sir E. Wood brought up a column 17th 
February and the time was almost at hand when 
a general advance might be advantageously under- 
taken, when some evil genius who or what will per- 
haps now never be ascertained prompted Sir George 
Colley to occupy the Majuba Hill, the extreme right 
of the enemy's position, but only used as a look-out 
post by day. From Mount Prospect the hill appeared 
to offer the advantage of overlooking nearly all the 
Boer position ; and in point of fact, the top rising 
about 2000 feet above the centre of the Nek once 
gained, such was found to be the case ; for below 
and to the right might be viewed, mapped out as 
it were, the whole extent, between three and four 
miles, of the position held against us by perhaps 
3000 Boers. On the Nek plateau were four separate 
waggon laagers, at from 1500 to 3000 yards' distance 
respectively ; and on the crests of the hills and Nek, 
but a little drawn back, so as to be hidden from the 

380 THE TKANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, view of those approaching in front until close up, 
were some slight shelter - trenches, in some cases 
placed the one line behind the other. 

But such was the steep and precipitous nature of 
the sides and approaches to the top of Majuba Hill, 
that artillery could not, in ordinary course, be taken 
up. What object was hoped to be gained by isolating 
a body of infantry on the hill-top, in the manner 
in which it was done without guns, Gatlings, or 
even rockets to reach the enemy's laagers below, 
and without prearrangement for immediately follow- 
ing up the possession of the hill by a general advance 
011 the enemy's main position on the Nek it is 
difficult to conceive. Locating himself in such a 
position, Sir George Colley became en I' air, unable 
to communicate with his camp, or exercise any general 
supervision over his forces otherwise than by signals, 
and that only if the hill-top were not enveloped in 
darkness, cloud, or mist. No attempt seems to have 
been made by any staff officer or other person belong- 
ing to the force to realise previously, by personal ex- 
amination, the difficulties which would have to be 
encountered on the road up, or to reconnoitre the 
nature of the ground on the top of the hill, and 
ascertain how far its occupation would repay the 
risk attendant upon such an enterprise. Native 
guides were blindly trusted, who, had they not 
proved faithful, or had they been in collusion with 
the Boers, might easily have brought destruction on 
the column when struggling through the night, in 
long straggling line, often single file, up to the summit 


of the height, by a tortuous, slippery, and sometimes CHAP. 
rocky, precipitous path. 

Taking with him a force 22 officers and 627 men 
composed of detachments of the 3d Battalion 60th 
Eifles, 58th Eegiment, 92d Highlanders, and the 
Naval Brigade, Sir George Colley left the camp at 
ten o'clock on the night of the 26th February. The 
vedette post close to the Umquela Hill being reached 
an hour later, the detachment of the Eifles two 
companies was left, with instructions to occupy the 
top of that mountain with some men. Further on, 
midway between Umquela and Majuba, a company 
of the 92d Highlanders was dropped, with orders to 
intrench itself. Some delay was occasioned by the 
rear of the column missing its way ; but finally, 
between four and five o'clock in the morning, much 
exhausted after such toil the men being heavily 
weighted the column, now only about 400 strong, 
gained the summit. 

The general configuration of the plateau was like 
that of most of the table-tops of such mountains or 
hills, so common in South Africa of a saucer-like 
shape, though rolling. It being still dark, and the 
declivities and approaches unknown, the greater por- 
tion of the men on coming up were simply extended 
round the exterior some 1200 yards of the plateau, 
showing on the sky-line, with a small reserve under a 
rocky ridge in the centre. Little alteration seems to 
have been made in this distribution afterwards, and, 
it is said, men still continued to guard precipitous 
parts, from which direction no attack ought to have 

382 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, been anticipated. No attempt was made to throw up 
shelter-trenches withdrawn from the brow after the 
manner of those made by the Boers on spots where 
they would have arrested any attempt to gain a foot- 
ing on the crest ; though the men themselves, in many 
instances, became aware of the necessity of providing 
cover, and made slight attempts to obtain it with 
small piles of turf and stones. Of warning of attack 
there was ample and continued notice. From day- 
light, when some imprudent shots, fired at distant 
Boers, made the enemy aware of the position we had 
gained, until one o'clock, when the hill was lost, firing 
had been going on, and the enemy gradually, but 
steadily and with slight loss, approaching the summit. 
At first about 6 A.M. the Boers appeared alarmed 
for the safety of their waggons, and were seen inspan- 
ning their oxen not at the moment realising the fact 
that we were without guns or even rockets, why 
without the latter we are unable to explain ; but soon, 
finding that no attempt was made to molest them, 
they turned their whole attention to driving us off 
the hill, an object in which they succeeded but too 
well, after about seven hours' skilful work, thus for- 
cibly illustrating the superior advantage of practical 
to theoretical training. 

From such a result, coming on as it did, it can only 
be inferred that those who were responsible for the 
supervision of such matters remained in ignorance to 
the last of the nature of the ground and approaches 
by which the enemy ascended to the crest, and so 
matured no effective plan for defending the hill. 


There was, apparently, an absence of direction and CHAP. 
decision as to what was necessary to be done. Hence 
panic and flight, with attendant heavy losses, 6 
officers and 90 men killed; 7 officers and 125 men 
wounded ; and 7 officers and 49 men taken prisoners. 

The three reverses Laing's Nek, Ingogo, and what the 
Majuba cost the Natal Relief Column, in killed, reverses 
wounded, and prisoners, about 38 officers and 579 men. about. 
No good object had been gained, but the contrary. 
The fighting had been wholly profitless and unneces- 
sary, while it had the effect of teaching the Boers their 
true strength. Battle had been prematurely given. 
A more correct appreciation of the warlike capacities 
of the enemy would have counselled greater prudence. 
That lesson had now, at last, been painfully learnt, 
but too late. Immediately after the action at Majuba, 
the ad interim English commander the newly ap- 
pointed general to succeed the gallant but unfortunate 
Sir George Colley being then on the seas arranged 
an armistice followed up by a peace. 

Thus ended a successful revolt. Although a few Genorai 
Boers had been unscrupulous, and here and there, to viourof 
gain their ends, had employed means which conflicted 
with the more civilised usages of modern war ; and 
though cases of murder, or closely verging on mur- 
der, occurred, yet it must be conceded that rarely 
has a general revolt of a people been carried to its 
end with so few instances of cruelty, exhibiting the 
ordinary darker shades of insurrection. Their con- 

384 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAr. duct, at least, will compare favourably with that of 


'- any people during risings which have taken place 


A flight of The victories gained by the Boers over the English 
troops were such as any young nation might well 
be proud of. That of Majuba Hill was brilliant in 
the extreme, and will rightly be handed down to 
succeeding generations of South Africans as a grand 
achievement performed by their ancestors. 

For centuries we have sung the praises of an ideal- 
ised King Arthur. However much of the mythical 
there may be in the actual existence of or deeds per- 
formed by the Good King and his knights, at least 
the accounts handed down to us may be taken as tra- 
ditionary stories of the chiefs of the ancient Britons, 
with whom we English were once at war in Wales, 
and who eventually were subjugated by us their 
country then, including its heroes and myths, becom- 
ing incorporated with our own. 

To come to nearer and better known times, it has 
taken barely a century to transform the rebel George 
AYashino'ton into a hero in our estimation, and for 

o * 

Englishmen generally to feel pride in the fact that 
their former foe sprang from our race. 

Is it too fanciful, or going too far in the present 
day, to suggest that hereafter, in generations yet to 
conic, a similar change may come over English feeling 
with regard to the Boer War of Independence ? or to 
dream that the mineral wealth of the country having 
attracted hundreds of thousands, and the process of 


welding the Dutch and English inhabitants into one CHAP. 
people having been accomplished the future Anglo- 
South African may yet be seen subscribing for a public 
statue, and reserving a niche in his library for the 
bust of Piet Joubert. alongside those of Washington 
and Cromwell ? 

2 B 




CHAP. THE history of South Africa in recent years, when it 
comes to be correctly written, will abound in illustra- 
tions, tions of the evil results so commonly following a too 
precipitate action on the part of statesmen, governors, 
and o-enerals, when a little more calm calculation 


or delay perhaps leaving to others coming after 
them the accomplishment, safely and satisfactorily, 
of tasks too difficult to be undertaken at the time 
by themselves would have saved their future repu- 

We have in these pages indicated several such in- 
stances commencing with the premature annexation 
of the Transvaal and ending with the impatience of 
Sir George Colley in moving forward to attack the 
enemy before his full reinforcements had reached him. 
But will not history record even a further and later 
instance ? Will not the hasty eager way in which 
the armistice was sought for, and the peace negotia- 
tions afterwards pushed on throwing up every point 
which might have been gained to cover our previous 


loss of prestige, and soothe our wounded amour propre CHAP. 
receive comment in the same sense ? 

The telegraphic correspondence for this period, pre- 
sented to Parliament in March ] the same month in 
which it had taken place offers a very curious study, 
some may think of a somewhat psychological nature, 
which has scarcely received all the attention it de- 
serves. The strange shuffling together of peace with 
war proposals in the same telegram, or alternately in 
telegrams rapidly following one after the other, must 
have been very puzzling to many. Even Lord Kim- 
berley was unable to make out from what quarter the 
suggestion for an armistice first proceeded ; and, to 
enable him to reply to questions in Parliament, was 
obliged to inquire of Sir Evelyn Wood on the subject 
by telegraph on the 12th March. 

The want of sequence in which the telegrams appear 
in the Blue-book, to show the order in which they 
were received and answered in Natal, is not calculated 
to give a clear perception of the action, motives, and 
amount of responsibility which attaches to each per- 
son concerned. In order to lessen the perplexity 
which may not unnaturally have been thus engen- 
dered in the minds of some who have looked over 
these telegraphic messages, we have given the more 
important of those bearing on the peace negotiations 
as footnotes or in the Appendix, and will here try to 
trace the story they tell and the impression they leave. 

The President of the Orange Free State, in the 

1 See Blue-book (c. 2837), South Africa, March 1881. 



CHAP, appeals he so repeatedly addressed by telegraph to 
Sir George Colley, Sir Hercules Robinson, and Lord 
President Kimberley, with the object of stopping further col- 
lision, had, as early as the llth January, 1 urged the 
immediate appointment of a Commissioner to inquire 
into the alleged Boer grievances in the Transvaal, and 
bring about a settlement ; but without other imme- 
diate effect than being requested to inform the Boer 
leaders that if they ceased from armed opposition, a 
scheme would be framed for the settlement of diffi- 
culties. 2 The actions of the 28th January and 8th 
February Laing's Nek and Ingogo respectively 
took place on the Natal border while these messages 
were passing to and fro. 

1 See Blue-book (c. 2783), South Africa, February 1881. Enclosures 
to No. 32. President Brand commenced as early as the 6th December 
to urge attention to the critical state of the Transvaal. While Sir Owen 
Lanyon, on the 5th, was writing, " I still do not think there is much 
cause for anxiety," Mr Brand telegraphed, the day after, to the Ad- 
ministrator at Cape Town : " I read with very deep concern the account 
of the very serious aspect of affairs in the Transvaal. The gravity of 
the situation will, I hope, be accepted by your Excellency as an excuse 
for the liberty of asking your Excellency whether your Excellency will 
not devise some means by which a collision, which seems imminent, 
may be averted a collision which will have the most disastrous results, 
and seriously imperil the prestige of the white man with the native 

2 The Right Hon. The Earl of Kimberley to Governor 
Sir Hercules Robinson, G.C.M.G. 


" 26th January. 

" I have received the following telegram from President Brand through 
the Consul of the Orange Free State : ' Is it not possible to offer to the 
people of the Transvaal, through the High Commissioner, Sir Hercules 
Robinson, who is now in Cape Town, certain terms and conditions, pro- 
vided they cease from armed opposition, making it clear to them how 
this is to be understood 1 ' Telegram ends. 

" I have to instruct you to inform President Brand that if armed op- 


On the 13th February Sir George Colley tele- CHAP. 
graphed that he had received a letter from Mr Paul 
Kruger, to the purport that, if the deed of annexa- 
tion were cancelled, the Boers would be willing to 
co-operate with the British Government, but, other- 
wise, would fight to the end. 

To this Lord Kimberley, on the 16th February, Lord Kim- 
replied : " Inform Kruger that, if Boers will desist proposed 

. . . terms for 

from armed opposition, we shall be quite ready to negotiating 
appoint Commissioners with extensive powers, and 
who may develop the scheme referred to in my 
telegram to you of the 8th instant. Add that, if 
this proposal is accepted, you are authorised to agree 

position should at once cease, her Majesty's Government would there- 
upon endeavour to frame such a scheme as, in their belief, would satisfy 
all enlightened friends of the Transvaal community." 

No. 14. Governor Sir G. Pomeroy Colley to Secretary of State 

for the Colonies. 
(Received, Colonial Office, 6th February 1881.) 

" 5th February. 

" Have received t\vo long telegrams from Brand, earnestly urging that 
I should communicate your reply to him to Boers, state nature of scheme, 
and guarantee their not being treated as rebels if they submit. I have 
replied that I can give no such assurance, and can add nothing to your 
words, but suggested he may do good by making your reply known 
through Transvaal." 

No. 18. Secretary of State for the Colonies to Governor 
Sir G. Pomeroy Colley. 

" 8th February. 

"Have received your telegram of 5th instant. Inform President 
Brand that her Majesty's Government will be ready to give all 
reasonable guarantees as to treatment of Boers after submission, if 
they ceased from armed opposition, and that a scheme will be framed 
for the permanent friendly settlement of difficulties. Add, also, that 
her Majesty's Government will be glad if President will communicate 
to leaders of Boers this as well as former messages addressed to him." 

390 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, to suspension of hostilities on our part." l The Secre- 
tary of State for War also telegraphed the same day : 
" With reference to Lord Kimberley's telegram as 
respects the interval before reply from Boers is re- 
ceived, we do not bind your discretion ; but we are 
anxious for your making arrangements to avoid 
effusion of blood" meaning, we presume, in the 

On the following day 17th February Sir George 
Colley replied that he would " communicate with 

1 No. 35. Secretary of State for the Colonies to Deputy-Governor, 


" 16th February. 

" Telegraph to Sir E. Wood, as follows : Telegram received on 14th 
from Colley, ' TMh. Letter received from Kruger, purport, Anxious 
to make one more effort to stop bloodshed ; Boers driven to arms in 
self-defence ; views continually misrepresented ; if deed of annexation 
cancelled, willing to co-operate with British Government everything for 
good of Soiith Africa ; know that English people would be on their side 
if truth reached them ; are strong in this conviction that would not fear 
inquiry of a Royal Commission, which they know would give them 
their rights ; ready, therefore, if troops ordered to withdraw from 
Transvaal, to give free passage and withdraw from their positions ; if 
annexation upheld, will fight to the end.' 

" Have to-day sent following answer to preceding : Inform Kruger 
that if Boers will desist from armed opposition, we shall be quite ready 
to appoint Commissioners with extensive powers, and who may develop 
the scheme referred to in my telegram to you of the 8th instant. Add 
that if this proposal is accepted you are authorised to agree to suspen- 
sion of hostilities on our part. Message ends. 

" If communication with Colley still interrupted, convey my reply to 
Boer leaders by most expeditious means." 

2 No. 37. Secretary of State for War to the General Officer 
Commanding, Natal and Transvaal. 

(Sent 16th February 1881.) 

" With reference to Lord Kimberley's telegram as respects the inter- 
val before reply from Boers is received, we do not bind your discretion ; 
but we are anxious for vour making arrangements to avoid effusion of 



Kruger accordingly." l But, afterwards, wishing to CHAP. 
have the bearing of Lord Kimberley's instructions 
more clearly defined, he inquired whether, there 
being no further hostilities, he was to leave Laing's 
Nek, which was in Natal territory, in Boer occupa- 
tion, and our garrisons in the Transvaal isolated and 
short of provisions, or occupy former and relieve 
latter ? 2 

Lord Kimberley replied on the 19th February : 
" It will be essential that garrisons should be free to 
provision themselves, and peaceful intercourse with 
them allowed ; but we do not mean that you should 
march to the relief of garrisons or occupy Laing's 
Nek if arrangement proceeds. Fix reasonable time 
within which answer must be sent by Boers." 

Sir George Colley then on 21st February wrote 
to Mr Kruger, fixing forty-eight hours as the time 

1 No. 41. The Governor of Natal to Secretary of State. 
(Received at Colonial Office, at 8 P.M., 17th February.) 

" NEWCASTLE, \lth, 4.15 P.M. 

" Wood, with column, arrived to-day ; no opposition on road. Boers 
apparently returned to Laing's Nek. Telegraph repaired. Have re- 
ceived your telegram to Sir E. Wood, and will communicate with 
Kruger accordingly." 

- No. 49. Deputy-Governor of Xatal to Secretary of State for 
the Colonies. 

(Received, Colonial Office, 1.45 P.M., 19th February 1881.) 


"Colley telegraphs to you : 'Latter part of your telegram of 16th to 
Wood not understood ; there can be no hostilities if no resistance is 
made ; but am I to leave Laing's Nek in Natal territory in Boer occupa- 
tion, and our garrisons isolated and short of provisions, or occupy 
former and relieve latter ? ' " 

392 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, within which an answer must be given. 1 No immedi- 


ate result following, he moved and occupied Majuba 
Hill on the night of the 26th February, falling in 
action there the following day. 2 It subsequently 
appeared that the delay in answering Sir George 
Colley's letter arose from the absence of Mr Kruger 
from the Boer camp, he having proceeded to Heidel- 
berg and thence to Rustenburg. 

sir Evelyn Sir Evelyn Wood, being the next senior officer 

Wood J 

assumes present, assumed the command of the troops on the 


death of Sir George Colley, and leaving Pietermaritz- 

1 " ARMY HEADQUARTERS, NEWCASTLE, 21st February 1881. 

" SIR, I liave the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 
the 12th inst. 

" In reply, I am to inform you that on the Boers now in arms against 
her Majesty's authority ceasing armed opposition, her Majesty's Govern- 
ment will be ready to appoint a Commission, with large powers, who may 
develop the scheme referred to in Lord Kimberley's telegram of the 
8th inst., communicated to you through his honour, President Brand. 

" I am to add that upon this proposal being accepted within forty- 
eight hours, I have authority to agree to a suspension of hostilities on 
our part. I have, &c., 

" G. POMEROY COLLEY, Major-General, Commanding Forces. 

"P. KRUGER, Esq., Heidelberg." 

- No. 65. Major-General Sir E. Wood to the Secretary of State 
for War. 

(Received 27th February 1881.) 

" PIETERMARITZBURG, 6.30 P.M., 27th February. 

" Colley occupied Majuba Mountain last night. Stewart and Fraser, 
Koyal Engineers, 20 officers, 600 men of 58th, 3d Bn. 60th, 92d, and 
some Naval Brigade. 

"Was attacked at 7 A.M. ; repulsed all attacks till 2,30, when our 
people were driven back, and are retreating, losing heavily. 

" Essex telegraphs from Mount Prospect there is no doubt Sir George 
is amongst the killed, and Colonel Bond corroborates. 

"I shall "o back to Newcastle to-morrow." 


burg on the 28th February, reached Mount Prospect CHAP. 
Camp on the 2d March. 

On the 28th February Sir Evelyn Wood was in- 
formed that Sir Frederick Roberts had been appointed 
to succeed Sir George Colley, and would sail on the 
4th March. Further telegrams told him of large 
reinforcements being sent out ; and, on the 1st 
March, the Secretary of State for War signifi- 
cantly adds : " Although Sir F. Roberts is going out 
with large reinforcements, we place full confidence 
in you, and do not desire to fetter your military 

The only instructions Sir Evelyn Wood had to work sir Evelyn 


upon with a view to bringing about " an honourable instmc- 

i. i nr m tions those 

and satisfactory settlement of the affairs of the Trans- already 

sent to 

vaal " appear to have been those already referred sir George 
to as having been given to Sir George Colley by 
Lord Kimbeiiey's telegram of the 16th February 
the first condition, with regard to the Boers, being 
that they should " desist from armed opposition." l 

In order to ascertain what were the intentions of 
the Boer leaders in this respect, it was then highly 
desirable that the cause of delay in replying to Sir 
George Colley's letter, of the 21st February, to Mr 
Kruger, should be ascertained at once. Accordingly, 

1 See ante, p. 390. Lord Kimberley, in his letter of instructions to Sir 
Frederick Eoberts, dated 4th March, again refers to this telegram, and 
observes that, no reply having been received from Mr Kruger, he is 
" unable to say anything further on that subject at present." Blue- 
book (c. 2866), No. 64. 

394 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Lord Kimberley telegraphed inquiries on this subject 
on the 1st March. 1 

This telegram was received by Sir Evelyn Wood 
on his way to Mount Prospect Camp. He replied the 
following day, giving partial information, and add- 
ing : " Brand forwards message from Joubert to him 
complaining of Colley's move, and ends, will negoti- 
ate, but not submission or cease opposition. Bok's 
answer to Colley arrived here yesterday, explaining 
he could not answer for four days, as Kruger was in 
Heidelberg." 2 (? Eustenburg.) 

On the 3d March, without \vaiting for Mr Kruger's 
reply, Sir Evelyn Wood is found making in a mes- 

1 No. 74. Secretary of State for the Colonies to Sir Evelyn Wood. 

" 1st March 1881. 

" Inform me, if you know, when Sir G. Colley made communication 
to Kruger in pursuance of my telegram of 16th February, what time he 
fixed within which answer must be given, and whether any, and if 
so, what communications have since passed between him and Boer 

2 Xo. 82. Sir Evelyn Wood to Secretary of State for the Colonies. 

(Received, Colonial Office, 9 A.M., 4th March 1881.) 

"NEWCASTLE, 2d March. 

" Your telegram not clear, but in absence of Stewart, prisoner, am told 
by Hamilton, A.D.C., he believes twenty-four hours given, and on ex- 
piration there was no result, and Colley then moved. Brand forwards 
message from Joubert to him complaining of Colley's move, and ends, 
will negotiate, but not submission or cease opposition. Bok's answer to 
Colley arrived here yesterday, explaining he could not answer for four 
'lays, as Kruger was in Heidelberg." (] Rustenburg.) 

No. 79. Secretary of State for the Colonies to Sir Evelyn Wood. 
(Despatched from Colonial Office, 3.45 P.M., 3d March 1881.) 

"3d March. 
" My telegram of March 1st. If you find that Sir George Colley made 


sage sent to Mr Brand a strenuous, and, it must be CHAP 
presumed, a sincere attempt in the interests of peace. 
A duplicate of this message was despatched to the 
Colonial Office the following day 4th March. 1 Yet 

communication to Kruger, but no answer has been received, inquire of 
Boer leaders whether an answer will be sent to you." 

No. 83. Secretary of State for the Colonies to Sir Evelyn Wood. 

' ' 4th March. 

" Your telegram of March 2d. State date on which Colley's commu- 
nication sent to Boers, to whom addressed, and to what place. Was 
person to w r hom sent known to be competent to reply without reference 
to others ] Reply as quickly as possible. I understand from your tele- 
gram that no answer has been received from Kruger, and therefore in- 
quiry directed in my telegram of yesterday should still be made." 

1 No. 84. Sir Evelyn Wood to Secretary of State for the Colonies, 

dated Fort Amiel, 2.10 P.M., 4th March 1881. 
(Received, Colonial Office, 3 A.M., 5th March 1881.) 

" 4th March. 

" Yours received as I left Mount Prospect ; Colley wrote, 21st Febru- 
ary, to Joubert, offering to suspend hostilities if answer were received 
within 48 hours, not 24, as I first telegraphed ; he moved night of 26th. 
I expect answer when Kruger can be communicated with, but please 
read my telegram herewith sent yesterday to Brand. 

" Message to Brand begins : ' 3d March. I gratefully acknowledge 
your Honour's continuous efforts in the cause of peace, and I cordially 
desire such may ensue without further bloodshed. I know and esteem 
many of those now in arms against my Sovereign, and I therefore regret 
doubly they will not, by desisting from armed opposition, open the door 
to arrangements which I conscientiously believe might be rendered 
acceptable to every reasonable Africander. Any reinforcements I re- 
quire are placed at my disposal, but I would greatly prefer they should 
not be sent here ; I would gladly abstain from making any movement 
in advance of my present position for a few days, say till 10th March, if 
the Boers on their part promised the same, and you believe peace would 
at once ensue ; but your Honour will understand, as they not only 
blockade our garrison in Transvaal, but occupy Natal territory, I cannot 
go further in my desire to stop the war. 

" ' Any communication you may desire to have (?made) to the Boers 
should be transmitted through our posts. I hear Mr Kruger has gone 
to Rustenburg. In justice to our common friend Sir George Colley, I 





this had no sooner been forwarded than another tele- 
gram followed within an hour to Lord Kimberley, 
saying : " I suggest wait a day or two, as shall not 
be ready for another week, and then I must act 
if Potchefstroom is to be saved, as I hear that they 
have bread-stuff only till 15th, and then mealies, but 
how much I do not know. When I move I am con- 
fident, with God's blessing, of success." l The com- 
mencement of this telegram is rather mystifying, but 
would seem to imply that Sir Evelyn Wood was afraid 
of, and therefore deprecated the possibility of being 
urged to move forward too quickly. 

Lord Kimberley, in his reply of the 5th March, 
approves of the message sent to the President of the 
Orange Free State, but adds : " We await answer from 
Boer leaders to communication made by Sir G. Colley 
to Kruger before giving you any fresh instructions." ' 
Until Mr Kruger's reply came, it was evident that 

state he did not receive any answer to his message or letter, and I read 
Mr Bok's letter, which, was not received until Sir George was dead.' 
Message ends." 

1 No. 85. Sir Evelyn Wood to Secretary of State for the Colonies. 

(Received, Colonial Office, 4 A.M., 5th March 1881.) 

" tth March. 

' I suggest wait for a day or two, as shall not be ready for another 
week, and then I must act if Potchefstroom is to be saved, as I hear 
they have bread-stuff only till 15th, and then mealies, but how much I 
do not know. When I move I am confident, with God's blessing, of 


2 Xo. 86. Secretary of State for the Colonies to Sir Evelyn Wood. 

" 5th, March. 
" Your telegram of 4th. We approve your message to President 


no further instructions beyond those contained in CHAP. 


the telegram sent on the 16th February to Sir George 
Colley, 1 could well be given; certainly none to move 

On the 5th March Sir Evelyn Wood telegraphs : 
" Joubert asks how far I will co-operate in Brand's 
propositions. I have offered to meet him to-morrow 
near Laing's Nek ; if he answers this evening, shall 
follow strictly the lines of your instructions." 2 

The only instructions were those given to Sir George 
Colley by telegram of 16th February. Thus, without 
waiting for Mr Kruger's reply, without fresh instruc- 
tions from his Government, without any pressure 
being put upon him, and though delay was certainly 

Brand. We await answer from Boer leaders to communication made 
by Sir G. Colley to Kruger before giving you any fresh instructions." 

No. 87. Sir Evelyn Wood to Secretary of State for the Colonies. 
(Received, Colonial Office, 8.45 P.M., 5th March 1881.) 

" CAMP, NEWCASTLE, 5th March, 1.30 P.M. 

" Line broken between camp and town office. River impassable, one 
swimmer drowned, hence delayed in receiving yours of yesterday. 
Colley wrote Kruger on 21st, addressing to Laing's Nek. Bok opened 
letter, and writing at Heidelberg, 25th, says Kruger is away, and can- 
not answer for four days, and immediately he receives will forward 
reply. Smith, fighting general, writes on 26th, Kruger had gone to 
Rustenburg, where Kafirs are restless." 

1 See ante, p. 390. 

2 No. 88. Sir Evelyn Wood to Secretary of State for the Colonies. 

(Received, Colonial Office, 9 P.M., 5th March 1881.) 

" NEWCASTLE, 5th March, 4 P.M. 

" Joubert asks how far I will co-operate in Brand's propositions. 1 
have offered to meet him to-morrow near Laing's Nek ; if he answers 
this evening, shall follow strictly the lines of your instructions." 

398 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP useful, as he was not in a position to attack or move 


forward, Sir Evelyn Wood would appear to have 
again taken the initiative to bring on negotiations. 
Another very lengthy telegram to Lord Kimber- 
ley followed on the same day. Although dated four 
hours before the foregoing one, it would seem to have 
been sent after, and was received at the Colonial Office 
eight hours later. This message discusses questions 
which may be likely to crop up and prove trouble- 
some, and how best to avoid them, so as not to inter- 
fere with the progress of the negotiations he, Sir 
Evelyn Wood, was endeavouring to bring about. 
Lord Kimberley is also told that Sir Evelyn Wood 
had " sent ' Times,' with debate on Ryland's motion, 
to Swart Dirk Uys, leading Wakkerstroom rebels 
now on Laing's Nek." l 

Lord Kimberley, perhaps not being moved by the 

1 No. 89. Sir Evelyn Wood to Secretary of State for the Colonies. 
(Received, Colonial Office, 5 A.M., 6th March 1881.) 

" NEWCASTLE, 5th March, noon. 

" I anticipate hearing from Joubert soon. Fear until Boers are de- 
feated, leaders, if altogether excluded from amnesty, will continue hos- 
tilities if they can ; but, on the other hand, the very iinfavourable wea- 
ther and their admitted certainty of eventual suppression may cause 
dispersion. Sir G. Colley was very averse to pardon leaders, and your 
telegram of 10th implies such cannot be granted. Instruct me fully on 
this point, for much will turn on it ; and, reflecting on similar struggles 
in history, I do not attach much importance to punishing leaders, as did 
Sir G. Colley, though I would not recommend allowing them to remain 
in Transvaal, nor would I accept them as representatives of people. In 
discussing settlement of country, my constant endeavour shall be to 
carry out the spirit of your orders ; but, considering the disasters we 
have sustained, I think the happiest result will be, that after accelerat- 
ing successful action, which I hope to fight in about fourteen days, the 


same motives for haste, replies on the night of the CHAP. 

' r xi. 

6th March : " I will send further answer to yours of 

5th as soon as possible," l that is, after the receipt of 
purport of Mr Kruger's reply on the 7th, and the 
decision of her Majesty's Government thereon had 
been taken the following day. Before, however, this 
telegram of the 6th March could be received, the 
Secretary of State for the Colonies is informed by 
further messages, dated the 6th March, that an eight 
days' armistice had been agreed to" object of armis- 
tice to allow time for Kruger to reply to communica- 
tions from the late Sir George Colley and subsequent 

Boers should disperse without any guarantee, and then many now un- 
doubtedly coerced will readily settle down. 

" In any negotiations Joubert will probably make dispersion contin- 
gent on amnesty. I may be cut off from communicating with you, and 
if you wish to avoid further fighting, I suggest, while giving me no in- 
structions for the future settlement, you should empower me, if abso- 
lutely necessary, to promise life and property, but not residence, to 
leaders. This I would not do, if dispersion could be effected without 
it. Consider whether you be disposed to give me names of proposed 
Commissioners for information of Boers, as such knowledge might have 
favourable effect. I sent ' Times ' with debate on Kyland's motion to 
Swart Dirk Uys, leading Wakkerstroom rebels now on Laing's Nek. 
Mr Nelson arrived ; left Potchefstroom on 19th February. Garrison on 
half, short of water (?) sometimes ; after 15th March will have had tinned 
meat and mealies, but. not firewood. Winsloe talked of firing off all 
ammunition before he surrendered. I hope to relieve them by end of 

1 No. 90. Secretary of State for the Colonies to Sir Evelyn Wood. 
(Despatched from Colonial Office, 9 P.M., 6th March 1881.) 

" If by my telegram of 10th you mean mine to Colley of 9th Febru- 
ary, I never intended to imply that pardon could not be granted to 
leaders, but only to reserve that and other similar questions for decision 
of her Majesty's Government. 

" I will send further answer to yours of 5th as soon as possible." 

400 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, communication with view to peaceable settlement of 
question." l 

1 No. 91. Sir Evelyn "Wood to Secretary of State for the Colonies. 
(Received, Colonial Office, 10.20 P.M., 6th March 1881.) 

" MOUNT PROSPECT, 6th March, 3.30 P.M. 

" Have signed agreement with Joubert for suspension of hostilities 
till midnight, 14th March, for the purpose of receiving Kruger's reply 
and any further communications. We have power of sending eight 
days' supplies to our garrisons, and Joubert has undertaken to pass them 
through Boer lines, and on arrival of provisions at such garrisons, the 
blockading and besieging parties will cease hostilities for eight days. I 
hope you approve." 

No. 92. Sir Evelyn Wood to Secretary of State for the Colonies. 
(Received, Colonial Office, 1 P.M., 7th March 1881.) 

" FORT AMIEL, 6th March, 6 P.M. 

" The following are the conditions of an armistice agreed to this day 
between Joubert and myself. Object of armistice to allow time for 
Kruger to reply to communications from the late Sir George Colley and 
subsequent communication with view to peaceable settlement of ques- 
tion. We mutually agree to cessation of hostilities from noon on 6th 
till midnight 14th March. 

"Conditions : 1. In that period both promise not to make forward 
movement from present positions, but each retains liberty of movement 
within own lines. 

" 2. Sir Evelyn Wood is free to send eight days' provisions, but no 
ammunition, for all Transvaal garrisons, the Boer officers undertaking 
to pass it to such garrisons. 

" 3. Joubert undertakes to send notice of the armistice conditions to 
respective garrisons and to Boer commanders, and will use his influence 
to induce these commanders to allow withdrawal of the British wounded 
from these garrisons into Natal." 

No. 93. Sir Evelyn Wood to Secretary of State for War. 
(Dated 6th March, 10 P.M. Received 7th March 1881.) 

" FORT AMIEL, 10.30 P.M. 

" Want of food prevents advance for about ten days. Ingogane and 
Incandu are impassable. I have therefore lost nothing in suspending 
hostilities, and gained eight days' food for garrisons most in want. Hope 
you and his Royal Highness approve." 


The local telegrams which passed between Sir CHAP. 
Evelyn Wood, President Brand, and Commandant- 

" History 

General Joubert, and which led up to the agreement of the 


"for an armistice, together with the conditions of the 
latter, are given in the Appendix. 1 These papers are 
worth perusal, and, taken in conjunction with the 
telegrams already referred to, serve to illustrate still 
further the foregoing remarks. 

The " whole history of armistice " is described by 
Sir Evelyn Wood in his telegram of the 14th March ; 2 
but it may be added that the meeting between Sir 
Evelyn Wood and -Commandant - General Joubert, 
which led to the agreement, was virtually gained 
through the former offering to pass a telegram from 
Mr Brand to the latter. The President, in his mes- 
sage to Sir Evelyn Wood, dated 4th March, says : 
" I gladly avail myself of your Excellency's kind offer 
to send a telegram to Joubert, to ask him whether 

1 See Appendix 0. 

2 No. 103. Secretary of State for the Colonies to Sir Evelyn Wood. 

" \1th March, 8 P.M. 

" In order to enable me to answer questions in Parliament, inform me 
whether suggestion for armistice proceeded from you or Joubert, or from 

No. 106. Sir Evelyn Wood to Secretary of State for the Colonies. 
(Received at Colonial Office, 10.30 A.M., 14th March 1881.) 

" MOUNT PROSPECT, 7.15 A.M., \Uh March. 

" 13th March, whole history of armistice. 3d March, Brand appealed 
to me, as former friend of Boers, to stop bloodshed by arranging tem- 
porary cessation of hostilities. 4th March, sent my answer to you. 
5th March, you approved. 3d March, Brand appealed to Joubert to 
meet me to arrange armistice. 4th March, Joubert sending me Brand's 
message, asks how far I will co-operate, so (sic) he wishes to stop his 
patrols. 5th March, I offered to meet him on 6th." 

2 c 

402 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, he could not meet your Excellency and arrange 
some plan by which hostilities could be stopped 
for a certain fixed time, to offer facilities for peace 

singular The armistice agreement contained some singular 
ofthear- conditions, which, however fitted to secure a cessa- 
tion of hostilities and further the peace negotiations 
on the spot, were unworkable, and but ill calculated 
to have been of any practical assistance in case hos- 
tilities had been resumed at the expiration of eight 
days. Although hostilities were suspended for that 
period on the Natal border between Sir Evelyn Wood 
and General Joubert from the moment they had 
signed the agreement, yet no such cessation followed 
the notification of the armistice to the British garri- 
sons in the Transvaal. The " effusion of blood " was 
not attempted to be prevented in their cases ! l They 
were to await the arrival of the convoys sent from 
Natal, with eight days' provisions to each respectively, 
before the armistice of eight days took effect with 
them. The Commandant-General undertook to send 
notice of the conditions of the armistice at once to 
the respective garrisons. No intimation in writing 
or otherwise was sent from the British general ; and so 
clumsily were the arrangements on this head carried 
out, that the officers commanding the British garrisons 
in the Transvaal were indebted solely to the Boer 
commandants, against whom they were fighting, for 
intelligence of the armistice and copies of its condi- 

1 See ante, p. 390, for telegram on this point from the Secretary of 
State for War. 


tions. Naturally, coming in such a way and from CHAP. 
such a source, they were received in a doubting spirit ! 
In point of fact no practical benefit accrued from the 
permission accorded by the enemy to send provisions 
to these garrisons, as, with the exceptions of Wakker- 
stroom and Standerton, which were not in want of 
them, the waggons only reached their destinations 
after peace had been notified. Had circumstances 
arisen to have necessitated a resumption of hostilities 
at Laing's Nek on the 14th March the date when the 
first armistice was to have expired would not impedi- 
ments, artificial or otherwise, have arisen to create 
further delay in the transit of the convoys, and have 
prevented their ever being delivered ? As it was, 
that intended for Potchefstroom the garrison which 
was the hardest pressed for food which had been 
despatched from Mount Prospect, accompanied by an 
English officer, on the 7th March, had been so delayed 
by flooded rivers, bad roads, or other causes, that it 
had not reached Potchefstroom when the troops were 
quitting the town on the 23d March, two days after 
the capitulation. 

The peace was, though, a foregone conclusion even 
at the time the armistice was agreed to ! 



Mr Kruger's answer to Sir George Colley's letter prog 
of the 21st February was at length received by 
Sir Evelyn Wood on the 7th March the day fol- 
lowing; the signature of the armistice ao-reemcnt 

O O c") 

by General Joubert and Sir Evelyn Wood. It was 
dated Heidelberg, 28th February, and would there- 

404 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, fore appear to have been an unusual time on the 

road. 1 

Then followed prolongations of the armistice Mr 
Kruger's arrival being delayed until after the 14th, 
and the meetings with the Boer leaders becoming 
somewhat protracted until the ratification of the pre- 
liminaries of peace, which took place on the 23d March. 2 

1 No. 96. Sir Evelyn Wood to Secretary of State for the Colonies. 
(Received, Colonial Office, 7.15 P.M., 7th March 1881.) 

" NEWCASTLE, 7th March, 2 P.M. 

" Kruger's answer, dated Heidelberg, 28th, to Colley's of 21st, now 
received through Joiibert. Gist as follows. In conjunction with 
members of Government here, have satisfaction to assure you that we 
are very grateful for the declaration, in the name of her Majesty's Gov- 
ernment, that under certain conditions they are inclined to cease 
hostilities. It appears to us that, for the first time since unlucky 
annexation, there is chance of coming to peaceful settlement. Our 
hearts bleed over necessity of shedding more blood of burghers and 
soldiers. In our opinion, a meeting of representatives from both sides 
will probably lead speedily to satisfactory result, therefore suggest 
representatives from both sides should be present, with full powers to 
determine preliminaries of honourable peace, and ratify same." 

No. 97. Secretary of State for the Colonies to Sir Evelyn Wood. 
(Despatched from Colonial Office, 3.15 P.M., 8th March 1881.) 

"8th March. 

" With reference to your telegram of the 5th, her Majesty's Govern- 
ment would be ready in any settlement to grant complete amnesty to 
all, including leaders, excepting only persons who have committed or 
are directly responsible for acts contrary to rules of civilised warfare ; 
make this known in such way as you consider most expedient. We 
should make no exception as to persons with whom we will negotiate, 
requiring only that they shall be duly authorised representatives of 
Boers, with power to act in their behalf. We understand Kruger's 
answer as opening way to further proceedings on basis of preceding 
communications ; and we now propose to appoint Commissioners, whose 
names I will state at earliest moment, who will examine whole matter, 
and will be ready for friendly communications with any persons ap- 
pointed by Boers." 

2 See Appendix 0. 


Sir Evelyn Wood, during the progress of the nego- CHAP. 
tiations, seems to have been careful in his endeavours 
to avoid or smooth over apprehended difficulties, likely 
to create hesitation on the part of the Boer leaders. 1 
How much so, indeed, may be seen from his telegrams 
of the 15th and 16th March, sent respectively prior 
to and immediately after his first meeting with Mr 
Kruger. For the better protection of the interests of 
native tribes on the borders of the Transvaal, it was 
at that time considered desirable that, before giving 
up the province, a tract of country eastward should 
be cut off. With this idea, Lord Kimberley, in his 
telegram of the 12th March, giving the names of the 
proposed Commissioners, and the points which they 
would have to consider, says : " It w r ould be well also 
to consider scheme for severance of territory eastward, 
to divide Transvaal from Zulus and Swazis, retaining 
great native districts on the east and north-east." 2 
By his telegram of the 15th March, Sir Evelyn Wood 
appears, in sending a copy (?) of Lord Kimberley's 
message of the 12th to Messrs Kruger and Joubert, 
to have deliberately omitted the above-quoted words, 
and supplied others less likely to cause alarm. 3 How 
well he succeeded in hiding from the Boer leaders the 
scheme proposed by Lord Kimberley may be further 
noticed, when, in his telegram of the 16th March, he 
uses these words : " I do not think they realise they 
may have to yield extensive tract to native tribes, and 
if they contemplated chance of Commission arranging 
this, they would not withdraw from the Nek." 4 

1 See Appendix 0. 2 Ibid. 3 ibid. Ibid. 

406 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. The proposed severance of territory was subse- 
quently, on the assembling of the Eoyal Commission 
severance appointed, quickly seen by two of its most experienced 
fortunately members to be thoroughly impracticable ; and while 

abandoned. -i-i-i-/. n /. T -IT 

calculated, it carried out, to create iuture discord and 
evil, to bring with it no compensating advantages to 
the native tribes in whose interest it was suggested. 
Lord Kimberley acquiesced in this view, and so 
fortunately no action was ultimately taken in that 

Sir E. Wood later the night of the day on which 
peace had been finally settled appears to have be- 
come uneasy as to how his words, " happiest results," 
&c., in his telegram of the 5th March, might be 
interpreted in England ; but certainly of course 
undesignedly the explanation he offers on the 23d 
March does not tend to make their intended meaning 
any more clear. But, however obscure that part of 
the latter message may be, another is made perfectly 
intelligible. Apparently afraid that the fact of his 
having been instrumental in initiating and carrying 
through the negotiations may be overlooked, he is 
found without " false modesty " pointing out to the 
Secretary of State that the success gained in that 
direction was mainly due to his personal influence 
with the Boer leaders. 1 

1 Xo. 6. The Secretary of State for War to Major-General 
Sir Evelyn Wood, Natal. 

" 2M March 1881. 

"All your military arrangements up to conclusion of peace negotia- 
tions approved. Pending final settlement under Commissioners' action, 


It is not necesary to say much respecting the in- CHAP. 
terpolated war passages introduced by Sir Evelyn 

ITT i i i* i i War pas- 

Wood in several 01 his telegraphic messages even sages inter- 

T i i spersed in 

up to so late a date as the 16th March. 1 It is hard sirEveiyu 


to understand how any one could have supposed that telegrams. 
a British Government in the present day, after hav- 
ing been led to negotiate in the manner described in 
the correspondence published, could suddenly turn 
round, and, without sufficient cause, break off nego- 
tiations, thus justly giving rise to the impression 
that they had been entered into solely for purposes 
of bad faith. 

If it was desirable to continue the hostilities, in 

force now in Xatal and Transvaal will not be reduced in strength, 
though, reliefs may be made. 

" Garrison at Cape will be strengthened by an additional battalion, 
and artillery ammunition column will be landed there to await orders. 

" Telegraph any suggestions." 

No. 5. Sir Evelyn Wood to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. 

" March V&d, 11.30 P.M. 

" Sincerely grateful to Government for appreciation of efforts in carry- 
ing out their wishes. Referring to words ' happiest results,' &c., in my 
telegram of oth March, I meant that a series of actions fought by six 
companies could not affect our prestige, but Boer leaders had lit a fire 
which had got beyond their control, and would be quenched more 
easily after a British victory. The fire is now out for a time, but 
Kruger to-day stated the Republic would be ruined if the Commission 
admitted claims from all forced to aid Boers. In drafting instructions, 
therefore, the hitherto inert power of the loyalists must be treated as an 
important factor in the question of a lasting peace. It would be false 
modesty to conceal belief that personal acquaintance with me has ma- 
terially aided solution. Uneducated men mistrust Governments, but 
trust person ; therefore Roberts should go himself to Transvaal to get 
known by the people. The troops, other than those in the Transvaal, 
being recalled near base, but not from South Africa at present. And it 
is most important that the Commission should commence at once, being 
assisted as to boundary questions by a staff of engineers." 
1 See Appendix O. 

408 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, consequence " of the disasters we had sustained," why 
have strained every nerve to bring on the armistice, 
before the Boers had given any indication of their 
willingness to comply with Lord Kimberley's often 
reiterated demand, that they should first "desist 
from armed opposition " ? The gain which might 
have been anticipated though fallaciously from 
sending a few days' provisions to Potchefstroom, could 
not be regarded as commensurate with that which 
would certainly have resulted to England through 
maintaining a more dignified attitude, and adopting 
a Fabian policy, waiting until, our full reinforce- 
ments coming up, we should have become masters 
of the situation, and in all probability without fur- 
ther bloodshed have obliged the Boers to " desist 
from armed opposition," in the first instance, and 
then have dealt with the question of their future 
government in a way which, while satisfactory to 
them, would have been considered in no respect 
derogatory to us. 

Such a delay would, however, have brought Sir 
Frederick Roberts upon the scene. 1 

The position of affairs as they actually were at the 

1 Colonel Sir Evelyn Wood, when he reached Natal with the earlier 
reinforcements and was made a local Brigadier-General, had over 
200 senior to him on the list of colonels, but stood immediately 
before Sir George Colley. The advent of Sir Frederick Eoberts, with 
other officers, would have placed Sir Evelyn fifth in seniority of the 
Natal and Transvaal forces ; but, as soon as it was seen that Sir 
Frederick Eoberts's services would not be wanted, Sir Evelyn had the 
local rank of Major-General conferred upon him. This selection placed 
him above Brigadier-Generals Drury-Lowe, Bellairs, &c. See Ap- 
pendix Q. 


time, following the death of Sir George Colley, has CHAP. 


been so well stated by a " Quarterly Keviewer," that 

. _ The situa- 

we cannot do better than give his words : tion is well 

stated by 
a " Quar- 

" "We believe that the English public has never realised the viewer."" 
actual situation at the moment when this astounding peace 
was signed. It is true, detachments of our troops had been 
worsted in three engagements, but in not one of them had 
more than 500 men actually come into action. Our garrisons 
still gallantly held their own in the Transvaal, and, with the 
exception of Potchefstroom, could have held out for many 
weeks to come. An army of about 10,000 men, well pro- 
vided with artillery and with a considerable force of cavalry, 
were actually at Sir Evelyn "Wood's disposal within striking 
distance of his enemy ; while about 10,000 more, with a due 
proportion of the three arms infantry, cavalry, and artillery? 
and thoroughly provided with all the appliances of war had 
either actually landed in South Africa, or would shortly have 
done so. On the other hand, if we turn to the Boers, we find 
a very different picture : a force of undisciplined farmers, ill 
provided with tents or other means of shelter, without 
artillery, commissariat, transport suited for rapid movements, 
or medical appliances ; whose total strength of citizens cap- 
able of bearing arms in the whole country only numbered 
7326. Of these a large proportion were occupied by our 
garrisons, many were loyal to us, and, notwithstanding the 
pressure put on them, would not fight ; while at least some 
members of every family were forced to remain at home to 
tend the flocks and herds and look after the farms. It may 
be said that, taking the most liberal estimate, and making 
full allowance for the recruits they received from the Orange 
Free State and disaffected Dutch farmers elsewhere, 3000 
men were the outside number that could have been placed 
in line at one time. If the reports of the Boer leaders are 
in any way trustworthy, only a few hundred were present 
at each of the actions where our troops were worsted. It is 

410 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, well known now, that at the time of the armistice the force 
XL encamped on Laing's Nek, having been already in the field 
nearly two months in very severe weather, was suffering 
much, and could only with difficulty even then be kept 
together by its chiefs. Had our forces adopted the Fabian 
tactics of masterly inactivity, the Boers would either have 
been forced to attack our intrenched positions, with the cer- 
tainty of defeat and great loss of life, or else the farmers 
would gradually have returned to their homes, and the Boer 
army would have melted away. According to Sir Evelyn 
Wood, the former alternative would have been adopted, and 
it had been decided to attack Mount Prospect on the first 
foggy morning, had not peace been concluded." 1 

Danger from an extension of the war through the 
cause of the Transvaal Boers being more actively 
taken up by the Dutch population in Cape Colony, 
the Free State, and Natal although not immediate, 
might have been apprehended ultimately ; and the 
war not being popular in England expediency might 
have pointed to the desirability of bringing about a 
peace ; but there were ways and ways of working 
towards such an end. In the circumstances in which 
we found ourselves placed, can it be said that the 
right way was taken to conclude an honourable and 
.satisfactory peace to the English nation ? An ordi- 
nary acquaintance with the Transvaal climate and 
Boer habits should surely have pointed to the fact 
that the season was at hand when the necessities of 
the farmers would require their removal with their 
stock to the bushveld. Then full British reinforce- 
ments having reached the front would have arrived 

1 See Quarterly Review for April 1883" The Transvaal." 


the time for offering to negotiate fair terms for mak- CHAP. 


ing a lasting peace with Honour. That time would 
have been coincident with the arrival of and conduct 
of affairs by Sir Frederick Eoberts. 

A peace so made was surely and naturally followed Decay of 
by the decay of English influence throughout South influence 
Africa, with its concomitant transfer to the Dutch out south 
party, which then quickly took the ascendant. How 
much so may be clearly seen in the Cape Colony, 
where though but three years have since elapsed 
the governing power has already passed from the 
hands of the English into those of the Dutch 

The Africander Bond Africa for the Africanders 
a society owing its origin and rapidly extended organ- 
isation and influence to the errors committed by 
English authorities the annexation and subsequent 
over-government of the Transvaal, the unnecessarily 
provoked war, and the hastily patched-up peace 
has its ramifications throughout the several States 
and Colonies, and is steadily progressing towards the 
realisation of its programme. Step by step it will 
surely continue to do so, unless by change of policy, 
in time, improved feeling, and lessened race pre- 
judice on our side, we undermine its raison d'etre} 
Outnumbering the English, the Cape Dutch colonists 

1 Thackeray likened the world to a looking-glass. If we have only 
sour looks for it, it will certainly reflect Lack our ill-humour. Can it 
be expected that our South-African Dutch colonists will like us, or be 
willing to join loyally with us, when we rarely have honest fair words 
to say for them ? 

412 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, have the voting power to return both members 
for most of the electoral divisions of the Colony. 
Until recently, however, they have not cared to avail 
themselves of their strength ; but fired by late events 
in the Transvaal, w r orked upon by the agencies of the 
Africander Bond, and stirred up by some of their 
better educated and more ambitious kith and kin, 
including their clergy, they have latterly taken great 
interest in political matters, and have combined to 
obtain the return of a compact majority to Parlia- 
ment. Prior to the election which took place in the 
early part of this year, a meeting of Bondmen was 
held in each electoral division where the Bond held 
sway and that was in the great majority at which 
candidates were proposed for election, and every 
Bondman pledged himself to vote for the two chosen 
by the majority of the meeting. In this way their 
vote became unanimous, and no candidate, other than 
a Bondman so selected, had any chance of being 
returned for a constituency in which Boers predomi- 
nated. And thus half of the seventy-four members 
of the present House of the Cape Parliament are 
Bondmen, having the power of framing the laws, and 
consequently governing the country, in the direction 
most consonant with their feelings and prejudices. 

These political changes have no doubt been fraught 
with disadvantage to the Colony, inasmuch as the 
services of some of its most able, intelligent, and 
patriotic representatives have been lost, while men 
have been substituted who are comparatively ignorant 
and uncultured, though not perhaps without some 


natural ability. The future legislation derived from CHAP. 
such lawgivers the stubborn Dutch landowners and 
farmers of the interior, who now reck little of Eng- 
lish power to affect them is not likely to be to 
the taste of Englishmen in England. Our great 
Missionary and Aborigines Protection Societies will 
probably soon have cause to bewail its retrograde 
character. But what will the British Government be 
able to do to assist them ? But little. It is perhaps 
too late. The Dutch party have been almost hope- 
lessly alienated, and we are not any longer in a 
position to be able usefully to dictate our wishes 
to them. Coercion is out of the question. It 
would mean a large army of occupation throughout 
the length and breadth of the vast interior of the 
country for an indefinite time. 

No ; the men we so unfortunately employed to look 
after imperial interests have to adopt a simile con- 
veyed by the nursery rhyme turned out " Margery 
Daws," and have left us but an uncomfortable bed in 
South Africa. Nevertheless we must lie in it, and rest, 
perforce, content, though straw has been substituted 
for down. That Englishmen out at the Cape that 
is, those who intend making their permanent home in 
that land will soon find it to their interest to hold 
out the hand of fellowship and coalesce cordially with 
their Dutch neighbours we do not doubt ; and so the 
English party so lately the predominating one 
will gradually dwindle away, wisely reconciled to 
accept accomplished facts. Already we see in the 
Cape Ministry an English Premier with English 

414 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, colleagues, working harmoniously with a Dutch 



And so, in due time, as we remarked in our open- 
ing chapter, it will come about that there will be a 
United South Africa, though scarcely of the nature 
fondly hoped for, and originally projected by the 
British Government, but rather one which will desire 
to run wholly alone, without interference from the 
Colonial Office, and thus, unless we alter our policy 
in time, not tending towards the greater consolidation 
of the British " Empire." l 

Native Considerable divergence of opinion exists in the 

several Colonies and States of South Africa, as well 
as in the mother country, as to the lines which a 
sound native policy should follow. Some go so far 
as to decry all laws which restrict the freedom of the 
natives, or place them in any way on an inequality 
with the European inhabitants. These people consist 
mainly of those who live far away from, or who have 
had no experience of, or nothing to fear from, the 
large hordes of savages overrunning other parts, 
threatening at any moment to overwhelm the few 
whites in their vicinity. They wholly disregard the 

1 No one whose name has been connected with South Africa ever 
strove harder, politically and socially, to soften mutual prejudices and 
asperities, and conciliate the feelings of the Dutch colonists to British 
rule, than that great administrator, Sir Bartle Frere, during his stay in 
the country nobly assisted, as he always was, to their own complete 
sacrifice, by Lady Frere and his daughters. If the results did not equal 
his endeavours and intentions, the failure must be ascribed to his not 
having been allowed time and a free hand, and to the shortcomings of 
others, whose acts effaced the good he did. 


natural law of self-preservation, which must neces- CHAP. 
sarily be followed in all small communities, in the 
endeavour to keep in check the antagonistic elements 
which otherwise might arrest their progress, or even 
destroy their lives. Others, again, swayed by tradi- 
tionary recollections of treachery and slaughter en- 
dured by their people at the hands of the natives, 
dread being placed in such a position as might pos- 
sibly lead to a recurrence of similar disaster, and 
therefore incline to the enactment of laws which 
restrict the natives to certain localities, prevent their 
spreading over the land, and even tend to drive them 
across the borders of their State. Between such di- 
vergent views come many shades of opinions, often 
formed according to the experiences gained, and cir- 
cumstances in which the holders have been situated. 

Time only can soften race asperities, and bring 
about the adoption of a common humane native 
policy throughout South Africa. The surest safe- 
guard against harsh legislation, and only secure guar- 
antee against ill-treatment of the natives in such 
extensive sparsely populated countries, consists in 
the steady formation of a thoroughly healthy public 
feeling in their favour, and, radiating from the more 
civilised centres, being by degrees brought to bear on 
the outlying districts. As such a feeling spreads, pro- 
moted by the press and public discussion on native 
questions, Governments and peoples would come to 
clearly perceive that their own interests demanded 
the just and good treatment of the natives, and that 
mutual benefit must result from a recognition of this 

416 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. fact. This was set forth in a despatch written by 
Brigadier - General Bellairs on the 18th May 1881, 
when Administrator of the Transvaal. He said 

" If a common-sense view of the matter is taken, the ques- 
tion of native treatment and taxation in the Transvaal may 
be said to resolve itself almost into one of mutual interest, 
and is one which might therefore be advantageously used as 
a powerful engine to bring about a permanent better under- 
standing between the Boers and natives. Give protection 
and equal justice to the natives, and they will be willing 
enough to pay their taxes. That being so, it would surely 
be a suicidal policy on the part of the Boers were they to 
act so as to jeopardise the collection of such an important 
item of revenue as the hut -tax, estimated to bring in this 
year 40,000, and an increasing amount in succeeding years. 

" Much would be gained if the natives could be given to 
understand that the payment of these taxes bound the local 
Government to give them protection and ensure their receiv- 
ing justice and good treatment at all hands ; and again, if 
the Boers could be made rightly to comprehend that their 
own interests, the future stability of their Government, and 
the principal source of their revenue depend mainly on their 
treatment and behaviour towards the natives. 

" Last year, when for a short time administering the Gov- 
ernment of Natal, the following fact came under my notice, 
which well illustrates the feeling I have described as enter- 
tained by the natives with respect to the payment of taxes. 
A number of them obtained permission to remove into Zulu- 
land ; but learning that the Government collected no hut-tax 
there, they hung back, saying that they were not willing to 
go where they could claim no protection from the Govern- 
ment, and where, in the absence of a hut-tax, there could be 
no security for themselves or their cattle. 

" Taxation cheerfully submitted to is, it appears to me, 
the true way to introduce industrious and civilising habits 


amongst the natives. In order to raise the required amount CHAP. 

for payment, numbers of each tribe are annually sent away '. 

to work for the whites. Anything tending to interfere with 
the collection of native taxes would affect not only the 
revenue, but also the labour market." 

It may be reasonably doubted if direct imperial 
intervention in the native affairs of South Africa 
any more than was the case in New Zealand has of 
late years proved so beneficial either to the natives 
or ourselves as to encourage us to persevere in such 
action. Past events indeed seem to point to the 
desirability, in the interests of all concerned colon- 
ists, natives, and ourselves of our abstaining in 
future from all direct interference in such matters, 
and that we should do wisely to leave to the several 
Governments the task of settling such questions 
whether of native policy, boundaries, or trade routes 
among themselves, equally as much as we have 
been in the habit of doing in Canada, Australia, and 
New Zealand. The peoples of South Africa whether 
of Cape Colony, Natal, Orange Free State, or Trans- 
vaal are capable of managing their own affairs suffi- 
ciently intelligently to be able to dispense with our 
further nursing. That blunders have been and will 
be committed by their Governments, and that occa- 
sional dead-locks will occur, may be taken as granted ; 
but these will be got over as elsewhere as, for in- 
stance, formerly, in the now united seven provinces 
of New Zealand, or the now amalgamated Dominion 
of Canada. Imperial interference has hitherto not 
worked well, and has satisfied none. While irritat- 

2 D 

418 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP, ing to South Africans generally a race more than 
usually sensitive to dictation or intervention it only 
tends to increased pressure being put upon the Eng- 
lish Government, by certain home sections, to go 
further afield to exercise an active protectorate over 
native tribes in distant or more or less inaccessible 

No real permanent advantage is so gained to the 
natives, who, if not already, must ere long find them- 
selves living alongside, or in the midst of a Boer 
population the Boers, it should not be forgotten, 
being the most numerous and increasing class in the 
country the true colonists, landowners, and farmers, 
pushing their way into the far interior. To exercise 
an inefficient protectorate it is idle to suppose it 
could be more than nominal in such a vast territory, 
with the mass of the colonists resenting our inter- 
ference 'Over native tribes would surely produce 
future, if not immediate, antagonism between them 
and the Boers, among whom their lot must eventu- 
ally be cast. The latter would assuredly be provoked 
at what they would deem undue interference on our 
part, and the irritation so caused would be vented on 
the natives, thus tending to prevent any softening 
influences which might otherwise be brought indi- 
rectly to bear in their favour. 

The native question has been at the root of most 
of our troubles in South Africa ; and too often, from 
inability to look sufficiently ahead, our well-meant 
though unfortunately mistaken endeavours to 


ameliorate the condition of the natives, have resulted CHAP. 


in their being left in a worse position than previously. 
It is one which seemingly from every point of view 
we should do well to leave to be settled by the 
inhabitants of South Africa themselves, and thus, in 
the interests of all, free ourselves from the inevitable 
complications and entanglements which pursue us at 
every step taken in a contrary course. 

The main object sought by the imperial Govern- Final re- 
ment in their haste to bring about confederation, had 
been to lessen imperial responsibilities and expendi- 
ture, by obliging the Colonies and States, as a whole, 
to manage their own affairs and look to their own 
internal defence, without assistance from England 
a policy which had met with the best results in other 
parts of the colonial empire. Already the Cape 
Colony had a responsible Government, and Cape 
Town excepted only employed a few imperial troops 
in the great native districts, on its eastern fron- 
tier; while Natal, with virtually a Crown colony 
Government, had a few more occupying its capital. 
The intention then was to withdraw these troops as 
soon as confederation had become an accomplished 
fact, leaving only sufficient in South Africa to defend 
the imperial naval station the Cape peninsula. And 
already the military stores in those parts had been 
reduced to a minimum, barely sufficing for the daily 
requirements of the troops, without provision for pos- 
sible future native or other troubles, so far as the 
imperial Government was concerned. 

420 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

CHAP. Unfortunately for the achievement of this ideal, in 
place of allowing the Transvaal people time to arrange 
their own affairs, we in 1877 took advantage of 
the difficulties they were in, and took away their 
liberties, thus obliging the despatch of a British force 
into the far interior, and bringing upon us fresh heavy 
responsibilities and expenditure. Native wars fol- 
lowed in rapid succession, the Galeka and Gaika 
risings on the Cape eastern frontier ; a native revolt 
in Griqualand West ; Pondo and Basuto disturbances ; 
hostilities in Zululand, and with Sekukuni's tribe in 
the Transvaal, in which we found ourselves forced 
to take part, thus entailing further increased respon- 
sibilities and expenditure, and involving us in addi- 
tional serious complications ; while it has been com- 
puted that fully thirty thousand natives perished by 
battle or resultant disease. 

The close of the Zulu war in 1879, offered a good 
opportunity to revert to original intentions, and with- 
draw all imperial troops but those required for the 
imperial naval station. Only, in that case, the 
Transvaal and Natal must have at once been given 
free institutions, and a different " settlement " have 
been made in Zululand. Perhaps even another ne- 
glected opportunity arose when the Transvaal passed 
out of our hands. Instead of leaving boundary, trade 
route, and native questions to be arranged, as they 
arose, by conferences between the Colonies and States 
concerned, only offering to arbitrate if called upon, 
we again, unfortunately for ourselves and for the 
native tribes in Bechuanaland, perhaps also for the 


Basutos, intervened, and so burdened ourselves with CHAP. 


yet more responsibilities. 

It will be well if even now, too tardily, we recog- 
nise that our true course the most beneficial for all, 
black or white, colonial or imperial is to allow South 
Africans the complete control of their internal affairs, 
without any future active or direct interference on 
our part. The loyalty of Canada and New Zealand 
has not diminished, but the contrary, since British 
troops left those colonies ; and a like result may be 
reasonably expected to follow a similar course of 
action, if taken in time, towards South Africa. Our 
influence in favour of the good treatment of the 
natives, far from being lessened, could then be indi- 
rectly exerted with more useful and permanently 
beneficial results than has lately been the case, or can 
be done now as matters stand. Then we mio;ht 


reasonably expect to reach an ideal expressed by 
the 'Cape Times': "What hope there would rise 
to us of orderly progress if only the common voice 
of South Africa should declare that henceforth no 
black man should be despoiled of his land or cattle, 
except in the way of just forfeiture incurred by his 
own offence ; and that every effort in the way of 
freebooting, although beyond the border of any State, 
should be put down and sternly punished by the 
united action of all the States." 



Extract from Eeport of Captain RAAF, C.M.G., dated 
Potchefstroom, November 28, 1880. 

" WHEN Mr Kruger came, I proposed that Mr P. Cronje, 
Bassin, Coetzee, and Bezuidenhout should meet the Colonial 
Secretary. After a deal of talking it was at last decided that 
they should meet him on the farm of one ' Laberschaup,' about 
twenty-four miles from Potchefstroom. They would not allow 
me to leave unless I would give a written document, a copy of 
which I enclose. 

" I proposed Wednesday as the day of meeting, when two 
or three voices from the crowd said, ' That will be too late ; 
on Wednesday we want to be in Potchefstroom.' Mr Paul 
Kruger told me that he had come from Eustenburg to meet 
these men, as he feared things were coming to a point, and he 
wished to prevent bloodshed if possible. He told me he had 
found the men in a great state of excitement, and they will 
not wait until the appointed time in January, as previously 
arranged. Therefore he had that morning decided to call a 
meeting of the whole committee. For absent members sum- 
monses had that morning been sent, and they are to meet as 
early as possible. I may state without any hesitation that it 
is no further use to attempt to reason with these men ; they 
are fully determined to defy the Government in every way. 

424 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

" I may further state, from very good authority, that the 
men I met at the place of meeting do not represent a third 
of the actual rebels under arms." 

Report of Mr HUDSON. 

" POTCHEFSTROOM, December 1, 1880. 

" YOUK EXCELLENCY, Following my letters of the 26th and 
28th ultimo, I have the honour to report that Potchefstroom 
is still in a disturbed state, and the inhabitants appear to view 
matters as critical. On Monday I left this at 8 A.M. for Kaal- 
fontein to meet Mr Paul Kruger and Boer Committee. I took 
with me only a special constable named Ribas, who drove me. 
I may here mention that on Friday last Captain Raaf went 
out to notify, if he should desire it, my willingness to meet 
Mr Kruger, and was rather roughly handled, being met some 
distance from the laager, searched, and an attempt was made 
to lead him and his horse in. On his return he told me that 
lie thought at one time they would have seized and kept him 
there, and he did not care to advise me to go out. I told him 
1 must go according to arrangement. 

" The Boer laager is about twenty miles from here. When 
about two miles from it an escort of two men met us and took 
us into camp, where I should say about 400 men were gathered. 
Ixibas informs me he counted 618 horses and mules, but there 
were many more. 

'' I met with a very sullen reception, and Mr Paul Kruger 
appeared nervous, and very anxious that I should keep out of 
sight of the ' volk ' (people) as much as possible. Mr Kruger 
then took me into a room, where a meeting between about ten 
persons and myself took place. The interview here began : 

" Mr KrtKjcr. I hurried down from liustenburg hearing that 
matters were serious, but I now find them more so than I ex- 
pected. In fact, I don't know what to think of it. The Com- 
mittee had been working with the people, and arrangements 
had been made for a meeting on the 9th of January 1881, 
and now the Government has upset the whole thing. I and 
others are now doing our best for a peaceful arrangement, but 


if the Government precipitates matters I will wash my hands 
of all responsibility. 

" Mr Hudson. I have come here to meet Mr Kruger with a 
like object, and I think I can claim to have the best interests 
of the country at heart. I am a colonist, and came up here 
in the hope that I might promote South African interests. I 
am equally anxious with Mr Kruger to assist in preventing 
any disturbance, and would strongly urge upon those for 
whom warrants are out to surrender and trust themselves to 
the mercy of the Government. 

" Mr Kruger. "Why, when the people are protesting, and a 
meeting notified for the 9th January, which the Committee are 
trying to make pass off peaceably, does the Government worry 
them by tax collecting, executions, &c. ? The Government 
should have waited till then. 

" Mr Hudson. Surely, Mr Kruger, you cannot suppose that 
any Government would consent to suspend the operation of 
the law because of some meeting that was supposed to be 
held. The law must take its course. 

" Mr Kruger. The Government has precipitated matters, the 
people are impatient, and matters are now serious. Had the 
Government waited, the Committee would have laid before the 
people on the 9th of January Mr Gladstone's proposals, and 
have been prepared to have taken action on them, and matters 
peaceably arranged. 

" Mr Hudson. The Government has received no informa- 
tion from the Committee of the object of the meeting, or any 
intimation that any proposals from Mr Gladstone had been 
received, or were to be discussed at least I never heard 
of it. 

" Mr Kruger. Everything has been published, so that every 
one might read what was going on, and so long as the people 
protested the Government should not harass them. 

"Mr Hudson^ As I have said before, the Government can- 
not suspend any of its legitimate functions. As regards the 
collection of taxes, why should one pay and not another ? 
as a Government we are merely carrying out the laws of 
the country. 

426 THE TRANSVAAL WAK, 1880-81. 

" Mr Bodenstein. Why should taxes not be allowed to be re- 
ceived under protest till this meeting ? 

" Mr Hudson. Because I never yet heard of a Government 
receiving taxes under a protest, such as you propose ; it could 
not do so. It might lead you to entertain the idea that if the 
country were given back the money would have to be returned 
to you by the British Government. 

" Mr Kruger. It is not the British Government, or the 
English people ; it is acts of the Government and the mis- 
representations of Sir Bartle Frere, Wolseley, and Lanyon that 
have brought matters to this state. 

" Mr Hudson. I am not aware of any act of this Government 
which could justify the present defiance to law and order ; and 
as to the alleged misrepresentations, I do not understand what 
is meant. 

" Mr Cronjd. Are you aware of what took place between 
Bezuidenhout and the Landdrost of Potchefstroom, and all the 
circumstances which have led to the present difficulties ? 

" Mr Hudson. I am not aware of the particulars. The Gov- 
ernment is under the impression that everything has been 
done according to law ; if any injustice has been done to Mr 
Bezuidenhout, he has his redress by law, or a representation 
to Government. When I get back to Pretoria I will make 
inquiries though, as I have intimated, he could appeal to a 
higher court. 

" Mr Cronje. I would like to state the case. Mr Bezuiden- 
hout was served with a tax notice to pay 27, 5s. He ap- 
peared at the office of the Landdrost of Potchefstroom, and 
told him he was willing to pay 14, which was all that could 
legally be demanded. The Landdrost refused to receive it, 
but said Bezuidenhout must pay 27, 5s. ; but he declined to 
do so. He was then summoned for 27, 5s., and appeared, 
presenting his last receipts, and tendered again 14. The 
Landdrost answered as before. Bezuidenhout flatly refused to 
pay. Subsequently judgment was given for 14, with 8 
costs, and the waggon was attached for the 14. If this 
matter is looked into, it will be seen how illegally the Gov- 
ernment lias acted. 


" Mr Hudson. The Government is not aware of the case as 
you have stated it, and I cannot say more than I have already 

" Mr Fonclid. Why did the Government adopt such an un- 
usual course as to send troops down to execute the arrest ? 

" Mr Hudson. There was not a single soldier sent down or 
used to carry out the process of the law. Special constables 
only were used, and they were resisted. 

" Mr Bodcnstein. Why were no summonses issued in the usual 
way? Had that been done, the present difficulties would not 
have occurred ; the troops coming down made the difficulty. 

" Mr Hudson. I understand from Mr Cronje that summonses 
were issued ; but that is a judicial matter, and if any wrong 
has been done, it can be righted in the usual way. I have 
come to urge you to settle matters quietly, and hope you will 
urge upon those for whom warrants are out to give themselves 
up ; these points are only personal ones. 

" Mr Kruger. Why, while the people are protesting generally, 
do the Government try to stop them ? The Committee were 
working for peace, and do not want bloodshed, and if the Gov- 
ernment had allowed the people's Committee to act it might 
have been different. Even now the Government have arrested 
the printer, Mr Celliers, who published their protests ; why did 
the Government do that ? Matters have arrived at the state 
now that I do not know how much further they will go. 
(Here a member or person in the room said to Mr Kruger, 
' Yes, you do, or else you know/ and put his hands round his 
neck, indicating, as I understood, that he would have a halter 
round his neck.) 

" Mr Hudson. The Government lias never interfered w r ith 
the peaceful efforts or intentions of the Committee. Surely 
the Government has a right as much as private persons to 
take notice of defamatory articles. The courts and the laws 
of the country will decide whether Mr Celliers or the Govern- 
ment is right ; so I don't see that any person can object to an 
appeal to them, if disposed to make it. 

" Mr Krurjcr. The people are a protesting people, and 
should not be hindered in their words. 

428 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

" Mr Hudson. Is there anything you wish me to convey to 
the Government ? 

" Mr Kruger. We must now speak to the people ; it is their 
matter, and we can do nothing. I came to prevent bloodshed, 
and to shorten the time of the meeting, and wrote a letter to 
the Landdrost, with our minutes, which have not been for- 

" Mr Hudson. Will you let me have a copy ? 

" Mr Kruger. No, I cannot give you a copy. It is of no 
use ; they are cancelled. The Government has taken its 
course, issued summonses, writs, and brought troops, and I 
must let the people now decide. We are now calling them 
up, and will determine what we will do ; but if the Govern- 
ment interferes or does anything to exasperate them, I wash 
my hands of all responsibility. 

" Mr Hudson. The Government is equally anxious with 
yourself for a satisfactory settlement of this matter. As you 
are calling the people up the matter will now soon be settled. 
I can say no more than to express my earnest hope that the 
decision you arrive at will be the right one. 

" Here the interview ended. 

" I was escorted back for about one mile from the laager 
by three mounted Boers. 

" OH Tuesday I received the enclosed letter from Mr Paul 
Kruger, to which I sent a reply. (Copy herewith). 

" In conclusion, I would draw attention to the case of 
Bezuidenhout. I enclose copy of the proceedings supplied to 
me by the Landdrost, which I would recommend being sent to 
the Attorney-General for opinion. 

" The political results which would appear to have arisen 
out of this case require, I think, that Government should 
investigate it. I have, &c., 

" GEOI-IGE HUDSON, Colonial Secretary. 

'' His Excellency, Sir OWEX LAXYOX, 
K.C.M.G., C.B. ; ' 

(See Blue-Book [c. 2783] of January 1881, No. 12.) 



Mr Donald Currie, M.P., no less clearly perceived the rocks 
ahead, and as early as July 1878, indicated the steps 
necessary to avoid making shipwreck by the colonial policy 
pursued. (See Blue-book [c. 2866] April 1881, page 66.) 

July 19, 1878. 

" SIR, Referring to the letter which I had the honour to 
address to you on the 10th instant, with regard to the Trans- 
vaal and Delagoa Bay, and to the interview which you favoured 
me with on the 1 5 th instant, and bearing in mind what passed 
at your private meeting with the delegates yesterday, I now 
submit the following observations, as I promised to do, in the 
interest of the peace and prosperity of the Transvaal, and with 
the hope that they may be considered of some value to you in 
judging how her Majesty's Government will deal with the pro- 
posals of Messrs Kruger and Joubert. 

" 1. As matters stand, it would seem as if there were only 
two courses open either to maintain British sovereignty, or 
to yield to the claims of the delegates for independence. But 
if you incline to seek for some arrangement fitted to reconcile 
the Boers, a third course may be found. 

" 2. From all I can see, after long interviews with Messrs 
Kruger and Joubert, and inquiries which I have made, it 
appears to be extremely probable that an absolute and uncon- 
ditional refusal of the memorial from the inhabitants of the 
late South African Republic will be followed by scenes of 
disorder, and possibly of bloodshed : and further, that the 
country will be disorganised, as many people will trek out of 
the territory ; that there will be difficulty in collecting taxes ; 
settlers and intending emigrants may be alarmed ; commercial 
relations disturbed, and all progress hindered for many a day 
to come in the Transvaal ; consequently, that we may have to 
look for great financial embarrassments, both for the people and 
for our Government, in the revenue and expenditure. 

430 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

" 3. The Boers are so persuaded of the injustice of the 
course which has been pursued (whether rightly or wrongly); 
they have so strong a disposition to freedom and liberty of 
movement ; they are so religiously, or, as some would call it, 
superstitiously mindful of facts in their past history, that they 
will sacrifice their property and risk their lives, as they have 
often done before, for their convictions, and what they deem to 
be their just rights. 

" It seems to me to be of the utmost importance to the 
Queen's Government to prevent any outbreak in the Trans- 
vaal, and not to allow it to be said throughout the world that 
we were dealing both with questionable justice and undue 

" More than this, it is easy to calculate that our hold over 
the Transvaal would hardly be worth the high price of English 
life and treasure. 

" 4. The third course to which I have referred is involved 
in the question : Can you give the people of the Transvaal 
what will satisfy them, in the shape of self-government and 
management of their own affairs, with some assurance of assist- 
ance in the future ? 

" I think you can. They ask for independence, which you 
indicated clearly would be refused ; but I believe they would 
gladly promise, if free, to come into close and intimate rela- 
tions with our Government. This, however, would not be 
judged sufficient by you, for I take it you mean to hold to 
British sovereignty. Nor could this course be adopted, in 
view of the inquiry why this country had taken the Transvaal 
over, and then apparently, because of admitted wrong-doing, 
had given it up. Care has to be taken of the arguments 
which might be employed if her Majesty's Government con- 
sidered it wise to think of adopting the memorial. I call 
your special attention to the Queen's Speech in proroguing 
Parliament in August last ; what Lord Carnarvon stated in 
the House of Lords on the 9th of August, and the speech 
of the Under - Secretary of State for the Colonies in the 
House of Commons on the Vth of August, in answer to Mr 


" 5. I venture to throw out the suggestion, that if our Gov- 
ernment, after reading its own accounts from the Transvaal, 
and hearing from Sir Bartle Frere, and after judging what the 
delegates have laid before them, see any propriety in taking 
under review what conditions might be made for the future, 
advantageous to this country and to the people of the Trans- 
vaal, the following or some such arrangement might be con- 
sidered as fitted to secure British interests in South Africa, and 
to satisfy the desires and opinions of the Boers. In some way 
it will be necessary to provide for the government of the 
country, if it be decided to give them, as nearly as possible, 
what they want. 

"First of all, her Majesty the Queen should be accepted 
cordially by the Transvaal Boers as the supreme head ; the 
people to elect their own representatives, the imperial Govern- 
ment to nominate members, and the Parliament to appoint its 
own Chief Administrator (the delegates would like a President), 
under a constitution framed with the approval of her Majesty's 
Government. It might also be arranged by convention, or 
treaty, that the Transvaal should not engage in foreign war, or 
in any dealings with the native races considered to be objec- 
tionable by the Queen's Government ; and it might be made 
a condition that the Transvaal should form part of a South 
African Confederation, over which the Queen's Lord High 
Commissioner should preside, this Confederation directing and 
controlling all matters of general interest to the South African 

" I go even further, and think it might be arranged that the 
administrator, or chief authority of the Transvaal, might be 
appointed with the Queen's approval ; but in any case the 
country should be in strict alliance with England, and under 
its protectorate. 

" If this could be arranged (that is to say, in the event of 
the refusal to the memorial from the Transvaal, and of risk of 
trouble there), then I think the Boers might be induced, by 
tact and management, to fall in with some such arrangement 
as I have indicated ; for they could be made to feel that we 
wished them to be our brethren, and not under subjection, 

432 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

which they violently denounce, as they say that they have had 
no voice in the settlement of their destiny. 

" I need hardly assure you, sir, with your knowledge of 
South Africa, that very much depends upon your retaining the 
sympathy and affection of the Transvaal Boers ; for whether 
they are to be under the Crown of England, or under some 
such arrangement as I have indicated, or altogether independ- 
ent, or forced, in their judgment, to go away to other districts 
of the continent, it is of very great consequence for the future 
of South Africa that they should be contented and friendly. 

" It would be easy to stir up angry feelings in their recol- 
lection of what the Boers have always considered to have been 
injurious treatment at the hands of persons who held official 
positions ; but instead of antipathies and discord, we might, by 
good and kindly dealing, secure their strong attachment to this 
country, and in time clear away prejudices which prevail 
amongst them owing to our action with regard to the diamond- 

o o o 

fields and our dealings in the previous history of the Transvaal 
and Free State. 

" At present the population is largely composed of the 
Boers ; but many Englishmen hold land there, and the country 
would soon be settled to a considerable extent if fair prospects 
of peace and goodwill existed. 

" And there is one very important condition which might, 
with perfect fairness, be included in the constitution viz., 
that at any time a majority in the country should have the 
power to decide upon annexation to England. The Boers 
have a strong conviction of the justice of a decision by a 
majority, and they would recognise, I believe, some such 
arrangement, just as they would now accept the decision 
to be annexed to England if a majority of qualified voters 
could be found in the Transvaal willing to vote for the main- 
tenance of the present condition of things. 

" The delegates speak in the strongest terms of the over- 
whelming majority which they say has declared in favour of 
independence, and of their adherence to the principle that a 
majority should decide. 

" 1 ought to add, that while they have discussed with me, 


and I have sought to learn their views, they are not responsible 
for the foregoing statements and suggestions. 

" At the same time, I do not hesitate to say that in some 
degree the delegates have expressed a readiness to arrive with 
you at an amicable understanding. I have, &c., 


" The Right Honourable 


&c. &c. &c. 

Secretary of State for the Colonies." 


Extract from Mr WHITE'S Speech in the Legislative Assembly, 
November 29, 1880. (See Blue-Book [c. 3783] of 
January 1881, No. 13.) 

" I stand here this evening to move the resolution which 
stands in my name on the notice paper, a resolution which 
I consider it is the duty of every one who is loyal in this 
House to support, and give to it the best support they pos- 
sibly can. It will be hardly necessary for me to bring to the 
notice of the House the present state of this country. It is 
known to all and every one in it ; and I think that I should 
have been wanting in my duty if I did not come forward, and 
to the best of my ability, show some of the causes that have 
led to this state of things. Many here present are not aware, 
perhaps, of the state of the country prior to the annexation ; 
but I lived here some time prior to that event, and feel 
assured from my experience that the form of government 
which then existed could not possibly continue. It was a 
form of government which was split up into sections, where 
the law, as it is now, was set at defiance, and each man col- 
lected around him a party, and endeavoured to rule the State 
according to his ideas. The end of this state of things was 
a collapse, financially, and then it became the duty of her 
Majesty's Government, for the preservation of the other States 

2 E 

434 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

of South Africa, to take possession of this country. I am 
here to-night, not only to defend that act of annexation, but 
also to ask this House to endeavour to secure, for those who 
were then annexed, the rights and privileges which they were 
then promised. (Applause from the gallery. The President. 
Order ! If any applause comes from the gallery I shall have 
to clear the House.) So far as I am personally concerned, I 
seek not the applause of the gallery, but I seek the votes of 
this House, and that I may fulfil that which the Government 
relied on fulfil to the utmost extent the duties of that loyalty 
and that integrity which gave me a place in this House. If I 
am disappointed with this House, I at least shall go away 
knowing that to the best of my ability I have endeavoured to 
fulfil the trust reposed in me. The annexation came ; and at 
the time of that annexation there existed in this' province a 
Parliament called the Volksraad. That Volksraad was an 
elective institution. It was elected by the voices of the 
people ; and the promises conveyed in this proclamation 
secured, by the word of her Majesty's representative, by the 
honour of Great Britain, to the inhabitants a similar elective 
assembly. Some period after the annexation the present 
form of government was given to us. That form of govern- 
ment is the closest form of government that can possibly 
exist. It is a Legislative Assembly, true, but it is a Legisla- 
tive Assembly in which the influence of the Crown predomi- 
nates. For if the nominee members who have been selected 
by his Excellency, her Majesty's representative, were unani- 
mous in their opinions, they have neither the power nor the 
ability to enforce their opinions. If such be the elective 
assembly that was promised us by the annexation procla- 
mation, then my knowledge of English is but limited ; be- 
cause it is clearly set forth in a clause which states that 
savages and barbarians natives, I think, they are called shall 
not have the right of voting ; and clearly by inference it shows 
that the inhabitants who are not natives, and have the right 
to vote, should have the right of electing members to repre- 
sent them. This has not been given by her Majesty ; and 
until that right is given, and until every man in this pro- 


vince has the privilege of exercising that right, so long will 
this State continue in the same condition in which it at 
present is. There can be no doubt that those who have 
come into the State, and those intelligent people who were 
residents in the State, fully expected by the wording of this 
proclamation that her Majesty would grant us an elective 
assembly ; but up to the present, either the feelings of the 
inhabitants of this State have been misunderstood, or they 
have failed to reach the ears of her Majesty. That boon 
which was promised has not been granted. Now the first 
part of my resolution reads thus : ' That the Government of 
this province, as at present constituted, has failed to secure 
the confidence or support of its inhabitants.' I take it that 
if Government has the confidence of the people, the inhabi- 
tants of that country are not constantly resisting it ; and if 
the inhabitants of the country are not now resisting the Gov- 
ernment, then it is hard to know what resistance means. At 
the same time, I may say that those who at present are taking 
up the position that they have, have neither my sympathy nor 
my support. I consider that there are other ways in which 
that freedom of which they talk may be attained. Sir, there 
is a constitutional way of attaining those rights for which 
they long ; but to take up arms at the instigation of some, 
who studiously keep themselves in the background (hear, 
hear), is not the way to obtain that freedom which they ask 
for. With those instigators and wire-pullers I have not the 
slightest sympathy ; and I trust that the law will so far 
assert itself that these men may be brought to justice. If 
any men in this State are deserving of punishment it is those 
who incite others, not daring to come to the front themselves. 
Therefore I trust that any remarks which I make will not be 
construed into sympathy with those men, because I have no 
sympathy with them. But the fact remains the same the 
fact of the country being in the state it is that the Govern- 
ment does not possess the confidence of the people. And 
to-night I am not speaking on behalf of those in arms against 
her Majesty, but on behalf Miose who have shown their 
loyalty to the Crown on more tl^an one occasion. I am 

436 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

speaking for those who feel that the rights promised them 
have not been granted, and it is on their behalf that I thought 
proper, as a member of this House, to place this motion upon 
record. The House, as at present constituted, sits here but to- 
register the decrees of the Government ; it is a farce to call it 
an assembly a Legislative Assembly. If the Government 
had thought proper to rule this country without a Legislative 
Assembly it would have been much better ; because then the 
responsibility of their acts would be fixed on the Government, 
and this House would not have become, as it is vulgarly 
termed, a ' buffer ' between the Government and the people. 
This House is powerless to do good, but it is powerful to do 
harm, because the acts of the Government go forth to the 
people, registered by the vote of this House as the acts of 
the people, when such is not the case. Since the annexation 
the country has gradually, but surely, got into a worse state. 
It is true the Government point to the one fact, that the 
revenue has been paid, and under that fact they shield them- 
selves, and say that the country is prosperous ; but the country 
never can be prosperous never will be prosperous until 
those who are capable have some voice in the government of 
the same. It can never be it has never been that a 
country can progress under the present form of government. 
Years ago I emigrated, and I have seen the Cape Colony rise 
from a form of government as close as this gradually to repre- 
sentative institutions, and eventually to that state of repre- 
sentative institutions which is known as Responsible Govern- 
ment. I am not claiming to-night for the people of this 
country responsible government ; but claim for them the 
right of being represented in this House, that they, at least 
in some way, may influence the Government in the path it 
may pursue. And I am only asking on their behalf that the 
House to-night endorse, by its vote, the resolution which 
stands in my name, and then I trust that her Majesty, ascer- 
taining the truth and the facts, and knowing the wishes of the 
people, will be prepared to grant that which we now ask. 
I ask this House to take a retrospective view of what has 
taken place since the annexation. I ask it to consider again 


all those who are now hostile to the Government and in arms 
against it ; and I ask this House if any attempt has been 
made to grant to them that to which they consider themselves 
entitled. I say not the slightest attempt has been made 
not the slightest attempt will be made, until this House moves 
in the matter ; and I feel sure that the intelligence, the educa- 
tion, and the wealth of the province asks that the House will 
endorse this resolution. It appears that the difficulty with 
which the Government had to contend, relative to granting 
these representative institutions which the people ask, is that 
the majority are hostile to the Government. If such be the 
argument, then the sooner we are placed under that law the 
martial law the better. Do not let us be fooled with a 
bauble. Do not let us think we have a Legislative Assembly 
when we have nothing of the kind. Let us simply return to 
the form of government in which the representative of her 
Majesty does as he likes ; not amenable to any one here, 
amenable only to those who placed him in the position of 
governor ; but if we are to have the Assembly a Legislative 
Assembly, let us have it not only in name, but let us have 
it in reality, here the people are enabled to make their 
voices heard, where they are by the voices of their representa- 
tives enabled to compel a Government to listen to them, where 
these representatives are responsible to the people who elect 
them, and not as at present constituted, where they are 
responsible only to themselves. I shall therefore, now, sir, 
with the permission of this House, move this resolution which 
stands in my name ; and that I may not leave the Govern- 
ment in the slightest doubt as 'to my meaning, I say as a 
member of this House as a member who has been appointed 
to this House by her Majesty, that I should have been want- 
ing in loyalty, and should have been wanting in integrity, if 
I did not boldly come forward and say that this resolution 
conveys to this Government the wish of the people. (Ap- 
plause from the gallery suppressed.) But it may be said 
that in the present circumstances representative institutions 
cannot be granted ; but the representative institutions which 
can be granted will strengthen the Government and not im- 

438 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

pede its good works at all ; for I feel sure that there are 
sufficient people in this State to return members to this 
House as jealous of the liberties of the people, as jealous of 
the honour of Great Britain, as the present Legislative As- 
sembly. Yes, sir, it is possible that representative institutions 
may be granted to this State which would strengthen the 
Government ; but if the Government do not want to part with 
that power which they at present possess, it is but for us 
loyal subjects to submit it is not for us with arms to defy 
the sovereignty of Great Britain. But there is a course left 
open if this House does not see fit to endorse the resolution 
in my name a course open to the people, and which has been 
followed on many occasions by an address to the Throne, 
to ask for the boon promised them. Let not this House 
think for one moment that with the rejection of these resolu- 
tions the matter is set at rest. (Applause from the gallery 
suppressed.) There is a feeling abroad among those who 
claim to be loyal, and who claim to be true to her Majesty, 
that representative institutions they will have ; and whether 
this House to-night votes for the resolution, or whether it 
does not, it is not a question that they will be called upon 
to finally decide. If I felt assured that some of the hon. 
gentlemen who are generally so dumb (laughter) would stand 
up to-night in this Assembly and attempt to controvert what 
I have said, I should be extremely obliged to them : I should 
be so obliged that I would almost thank them for doing it. 
Of course I am aware that the mouthpiece of the Government 
in this House will come with special pleading and attempt to 
controvert what has been stated ; and I trust if the hon. 
member does attempt such a line of argument, that I shall be 
enabled fairly to meet him and fairly to beat him. (Applause 
from the gallery.) I do not wish for one moment that this 
should degenerate into my having made a motion, and having 
made a speech. That I do not wish, but that those who 
think differently from me will stand up and speak out their 
opinions to-night. If wrong, it is easy to controvert what 
has been stated ; but if right, then they at least must admit 
the correctness of my statement. It has been my lot since 


becoming a member of this House to stand here alone, battling 
for what I consider right, looking and hoping for assistance 
from those around me ; but I have looked and hoped in vain. 
I have simply been forced into the position of the Opposition, 
alone. I may be alone in my opinions in this House, but 
I represent the opinions of a great many of those who feel 
that the promises made have not been fulfilled ; that her 
Majesty's Government has failed to carry out, either in letter 
or spirit, the proclamation it made when it annexed this 
country, except perhaps that we have an additional judge 
to the court which we had prior to the annexation. And 
when that court was created, it was also provided there should 
be three judges ; and we rested satisfied so long with one, 
accepting the appointment as an earnest that the promise 
would be fulfilled which the Government was bound to fulfil, 
because that court was in existence prior to this proclamation. 
It was a law of the last Volksraad that sat in this House, and 
it was one of those steps which were made in the right direc- 
tion. But this Government thought proper to keep us with 
one judge, and subsequently to give another, and I say that 
this Government has no right to keep that other judge from 
us which we are entitled to by the laws of this State. From 
the voluminous notes which have been made by honourable 
gentlemen in this House, I feel quite sure that they are about 
to attempt a refutation of what has been said. It really will 
be quite a novelty, quite an unusual thing, to hear the voices 
of some gentlemen in this House, let them be for or against 
me. I should prefer that they adopt the same views that I 
have presented, because I think that those views, if carried 
out, would be beneficial to the Government of this province. 
But if these honourable gentlemen think that the resolution 
which stands in my name will not be beneficial to this pro- 
vince, then I shall only be too happy to hear what they have 
to say. And if one of those members who sits in this House 
by the right of his official position will get up and traverse 
what has been said, I shall be extremely grateful to him, and 
much pleased that I have at least unearthed him. Belying 
that one of those honourable gentlemen will get up and con- 

440 THE TKANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

trovert what has been said, I shall reserve any further remarks 
that I have to make until I have the right and privilege of 
reply. (Applause.) " 


From Colonel W. BELLAIRS, C.B., Commanding Transvaal Dis- 
trict, to the DEPUTY ADJUTANT-GENERAL, Pietermaritzburg. 

"PRETORIA, December 17, 1880. 

" SIR, 1. I herewith enclose a Government notice, dated 
14th, but only issued on the 16th instant, forbidding armed 
bodies to approach towns. This notice was published 
consequent on representations I had made on the subject, 
verbally, a fortnight since ; and in writing copy enclosed on 
the llth instant. I have drawn attention to this notice in a 
district order of the 16th instant, copy enclosed. 

" 2. The post-cart, which arrived yesterday from Potchef- 
stroom, brought no reports either from the Special Commis- 
sioner (Major Clarke, RA.), or the officer commanding the 

" 3. The Boer camp has been moved from Paarde Kraal, a 
few miles nearer to Pretoria, and their patrols and scouts are 
encountered by our spies and scouts to within twenty -five 
miles of this. 

" 4. The telegraph line was broken between this and Heidel- 
berg on the night of the 15th. Two mounted sappers, Pioyal 
Engineers, were sent out yesterday to ascertain the locality 
and cause of interruption, and endeavour to repair it. 

" 5. The headquarters of the 94th Foot are said to be 
detained at the Oliphant river, about ten miles this side of 
Middleburg, and not likely to be able to cross until this day. 
Having been informed that there was an intention of despatch- 
ing 500 Boers in that direction, I sent out a mounted mes- 
senger on the night of the 15th, to warn Lieut, - Colonel 
Anstruther to take all precautions on his march, and more 
particularly when reaching the Botha Hill range and defile, 


directing him to send forward his native followers, &c., to 
reconnoitre over the hills before advancing. 

" 6. Another report which reached me was to the effect 
that 500 men had left, or would leave, in the "Wakkerstroom 
direction. If correct, this would seem to indicate an intention 
to attack or harass the company, 94th, leaving Wakkerstroom 
probably about 17th instant for Standerton. 

"W. BELLAIRS, Colonel, 
Commanding Transvaal District" 

(Enclosure 1.) 

From Colonel "W. BELLAIRS, C.B., Commanding Transvaal 
District, to the ADMINISTRATOR, Transvaal. 

"PRETORIA, December 11, 1880. 

"I.I transmit herewith an extract from a report made by 
the officer commanding Itustenburg, 9th December 1880, from 
which your Excellency will perceive that armed bodies of 
malcontent Boers are appearing in the vicinity of the camp 
at that station. 

" 2. Lieutenant-Colonel Gildea, commanding the garrison 
at Pretoria, also informs me that an armed party of six men 
last night approached within challenging distance of a sentry 
at the camp. 

"3. As it seems to me very undesirable that unauthorised 
armed bodies should be allowed to approach the towns or 
military stations with impunity in this manner, I beg to 
recommend, for your Excellency's consideration, the expedi- 
ency of issuing a Government notice to the effect that any 
unauthorised armed men approaching a town or military camp 
will be liable to be fired upon if coming within cannon or 
rifle range. 

" 4. The officer commanding the garrison of Pretoria has 
directed military mounted patrols to patrol the neighbourhood 
of the camp and town, with a view to preventing the approach 
of any such armed men, or of arresting them. 

" W. BELLAIRS, Colonel, 
Commanding Transvaal District." 

442 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

(Enclosure 2.) 
GOVERNMENT NOTICE, No. 264, 1880. 

"As the advent of any armed body of men to the towns of 
this province would be dangerous for many reasons, being 
strictly illegal, and might imperil the public peace, and bear- 
ing in mind the difficulty of controlling such armed bodies, 
his Excellency the Administrator directs it to be notified that 
all armed bodies of men are forbidden to approach within a 
mile of, or to enter, any town in the province. 

" By his Excellency's command, 

" GEORGE HUDSON, Colonial Secretary." 

December 14, 1880." 

(Enclosure 3.) 

"PRETORIA, December 16, 1880. 

"Attention is drawn to the Government Notice, No. 264, 
published in the Gazette Extraordinary of yesterday, prohib- 
iting the approach of any armed persons within one mile of 
any town of this province. 

" Officers commanding stations will be guided accordingly, 
and having due regard to their orders never to endanger the 
safety of their posts through overweakening their garrisons. 
They will endeavour to carry out the spirit of the instruc- 
tions conveyed in the notice, and prevent such approach of 
any unauthorised hostile armed body of men. 
" ]>y Order, 

" M. CHURCHILL, Capt., D. A. A.-G." 

(Enclosure 4.) 

"PRETORIA, December 17, 1880. 
" During the present disturbed state of the country seventy 


rounds of ammunition will be carried by each soldier; and 
whenever likely to become hotly engaged, and conveyance for 
the regimental reserve not at hand, thirty rounds extra will 
be issued and carried on the person of each man. 
" By Order, 

" M. CHURCHILL, Capt., D. A. A.-G." 


Mrs Smith's good deeds afterwards formed the theme of a 
District Order, published by Colonel Bellairs : 

"PRETORIA, April 5, 1881. 

" The Colonel commanding desires to thank Mrs Marion 
Smith, widow of the bandmaster, 94th Foot, for the good ser- 
vice she rendered after the Bronkhorst Spruit affair in nursing 
the wounded. Mrs Smith was herself present in the midst 
of the action, but though surrounded by the dead and dying, 
she in the most courageous way immediately set about allevi- 
ating the sufferings of the wounded, and for upwards of three 
months continued to be unremitting in attending upon them 
under very trying circumstances. Such true female heroism 
and devotion merits recognition and high praise. Colonel 
Bellairs, therefore, takes the opportunity of Mrs Smith return- 
ing to England to publicly refer to the good acts she has 

And after her arrival in England the silver medal and 
diploma of the Order of St John of Jerusalem were conferred 
upon her, being presented at Xewcnstle-on-Tyne, in presence of 
her father, Captain Murray, a retired quartermaster, the Mayor 
of the town, and others. 

Mrs Smith's elder child had his forehead slightly grazed by 
a bullet during the action ; and Mrs Smith herself did not 
wholly escape, small fragments of lead, from bullets coming 

444 THE TRANSVAAL WAE, 1880-81. 

into contact with the iron-work of the waggon, having cut her 
lip and ear. 

Mrs Fox, and likewise Mrs Maistre, the wife of the orderly- 
rooni sergeant, afterwards received the Koyal Eed Cross. 


Two orders of the day were published at the time by 
Colonel Bellairs, remarking on the causes which had led to 
this disaster and defeat, and pointing out the necessity for 
taking precautions against similar abuse of a flag of truce. 

" PRETORIA, December 28, 1884. 

" The surprise by the enemy, and capture after heavy losses, 
of a body of troops, 267 of all ranks, under Lieut. -Colonel 
Anstruther, 94th Foot, took place on the 20th inst. near 
Modder's Spruit, about thirty-seven miles from Pretoria, on 
the road from Middelburg. 

" From the reports received, this lamentable result would 
appear to have been brought about by the absence of caution 
on the march and neglect of orders received. Lieut-Colonel 
Anstrutlier seems to have been deluded into a feeling of secu- 
rity through false information, no doubt purposely given him 
on the road, and to have entertained up to the last the impres- 
sion, notwithstanding he had been warned from headquarters 
to expect attack, that there was no occasion for the special 
precautions ordered. 

" Further neglect is shown in the fact that the ammunition 
ran short, each soldier having been supplied with only thirty 
rounds ; whilst the lids of the ammunition-boxes had not been 
even unscrewed in readiness to meet emergency. 

' Through the ground not having been reconnoitred before 
advancing, the rebels were enabled to appear suddenly within 
300 yards of the troops and the train of waggons with them ; 
and then, while a flag of truce was sent forward and Lieut.- 


Colonel Anstruther was engaged in reading the letter delivered, 
each man improved his position and selected cover. An accu- 
rate fire was then opened by the rebels, and our officers and 
sergeants, no doubt having been previously marked, fell, to- 
gether with more than half the men. All fought with great 
gallantry and endurance, and would still have stood to their 
posts, but that the commanding officer, seeing the uselessness 
of prolonging resistance, gave the order to cease firing, and 
give in." 

" PRETORIA, December 28, 1880. 

" The conduct of the rebel force which, under a flag of 
truce, advanced to attack the 94th detachment, under Lieut.- 
Colonel Anstruther, on the 20th instant, calls for special 
instructions, in order to guard against such cunning but savage 
design being again carried out. 

"Xo hostile armed body of men will, under any circumstances, 
be allowed to approach the position of troops, or when on the 
march, within 1000 yards. Any such body attempting to 
advance under cover of a flag of truce will be fired upon. A 
flag of truce will only be received when sent forward with an 
unarmed man, and provided no advantage is taken meanwhile 
by armed bodies to approach." 


From Colonel "W. BELLAIRS, C.B., Commanding Transvaal Dis- 
trict, to the DEPUTY ADJUTANT-GENERAL, Pietermaritzburg. 

"PRETORIA, December 21, 1880. 

" 1. The military situation in the Transvaal is very criti- 
cal. Large reinforcements are urgently necessary especially 

" 2". There must be 6000 or 7000 rebels in the field, 
who, under good leadership, exhibit courage, discipline, and 

446 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

"3. The Potchefstroom civil affair brought about a mass meet- 
ing of the Boers a month earlier than it had been called for 
originally, resulting in hostilities commencing before the troops 
on the march, as reinforcements from Natal and Lydenburg, 
could reach Pretoria. The South African Republic having 
been proclaimed, Heidelberg was held in force, and large 
bodies despatched to invest Potchefstroom, and attack head- 
quarters and two companies of the 94th Foot on the march 
from Lydenburg. 

"4. One company 58th and one of 94th left Newcastle for 
Standerton on the 14th ; and one company 94th Wesselstroom 
for Standerton, probably on the 17th. Nothing further is 
known here about these troops. I sent a written and verbal 
message to Standerton to prevent three companies of the 94th 
moving on to Pretoria, but I am unable to say whether either 
troops or message reached Standerton. 

" 5. Captain Lambart, 2/2 1st Foot, who was returning from 
the Orange Free State with horses, was captured and taken to 
Heidelberg. There had been no means of communicating with 
him previously. 

"6. A report copy enclosed has been received from the 
officer commanding at Potchefstroom, giving result of a day's 
action (16th) at that station. The troops had originally about 
-500 rounds of ammunition per man, and 200 rounds per gun. 
Boer reports since say that Major Clarke, E.A. (Civil Com- 
missioner), had surrendered the public offices. 

"7. This day (21st) at 4 A.M., a disastrous report was 
brought in by Conductor Egerton, Commissariat and Transport 
Department, and a sergeant 94th (both \vounded), giving 
accounts copy enclosed of the headquarters and two 
companies of the 94th having been surprised about thirty- 
seven miles from Pretoria, and every officer and man killed, 
wounded, or taken prisoner. I have sent off ambulances to 
render assistance, under Surgeon-Major Comerford and a 
civilian surgeon. 

" S. I had taken the precaution of sending a special 
messenger previously to meet the officer commanding 94th, 
warning him that he might expect attack, and to exercise great 


caution on the march to guard against surprise or sudden 
attack. I fear that there must have been culpable negligence 
in these particulars. 

" 9. A few hours before the arrival of this terrible intelli- 
gence, I had sent out a force, under Lieut.-Colonel Gildea, 
2/2 1st, with the double object of obtaining forage from a 
farmhouse, and to prove of assistance, in case required, when 
the 94th should reach the most dangerous part of the road, 
about sixteen miles from Pretoria. 

" 10. The force in Pretoria had been too weak to adventure 
a field column, going to either Heidelberg or Potchefstroom ; 
but on the arrival of the 94th companies, it had been arranged 
by me for a column at once to take the field. 

"11. This is now out of the question. I can only hold the 
camp position, and with the assistance of volunteers, protect 
the townspeople. Pretoria will probably be soon invested by 
5000 or 6000 men. 

" 12. Having sufficient supplies, I expect to be able to hold 
out until communication with Xatal can be reopened, through 
the arrival of reinforcements." 


Administrator Sir W. OWEX LANYOX, K.C.M.G., C.B., to 
the Plight Hon. the EARL OF KLMBERLEY. 

" PRETORIA, January 23, 1881. 

" Since I last addressed your lordship in my despatch of the 
12th December, I have been unable to communicate on ac- 
count of the action taken by the hostile Boers in stopping the 
roads and destroying the telegraph line. In that despatcli I 
informed your lordship that the date for the mass meeting 
had been postponed from the 8th to the 18th December; but 
it appears that the date was afterwards again allured ' u to 
the 8th. As was the case concerning former meetings, -c 

448 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

this instance it was almost impossible to obtain the services of 
reliable men to go to the camp in order to afford information 
to the Government regarding the proceedings of the Boers. 
Some, however, were procured for this purpose, but they were 
very soon discovered, and had to fly from the camp. Even 
the scouts and messengers who were stationed at the houses 
of friendly farmers and others around had also to withdraw, as 
these people were afraid to harbour them on account of the 
threats used by the Boers. I append a copy of a report re- 
ceived from one of the men employed by Major Clarke for this 
purpose. The names were left out in it, as the document 
might have fallen into the hands of the Boers in transit. 

" One of the first acts of the meeting was to call together 
such members of their old Volksraad as were present. The 
result of their deliberations was that they should proceed to 
Heidelberg and there proclaim the Eepublic. The date of 
this was Monday the 13th December. Messrs Paul Kruger. 
M. W. Pretorius, and P. J. Joubert were appointed as a trium- 
virate by the people then assembled. Dr Jorissen and Mr Bok 
(Hollanders) were made respectively State Attorney and State 
Secretary. A proclamation was drawn up restoring the old 
form of government. Thereupon an armed force of about 
800 men were sent to Potchefstroom to get this proclamation 
printed. A r erbal information was received here on the 16th 
of the fact of this body having arrived there just as the 
mail was leaving, but their intention was not known. What 
subsequently transpired will be seen from the report of Lieu- 
tenant-Colonel "Winsloe, 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers, who is in 
command there. On the 15th the Boer camp was suddenly 
removed from Paarde Kraal to Heidelberg, where the procla- 
mation was read, and the flag of the old Eepublic hoisted on the 
afternoon of the 16th. Eeport from the Landdrost's clerk 
appended. Prior to this the Boers had taken steps to destroy 
the telegraph, as will be seen from the reports of the Line 
Inspector and Lieutenant Littledale, E.E. All the roads were 
stopped, and the country patrolled by strong bodies of armed 

"On the night of the 17th, a messenger (Mr Hendrik 


Schoeman) arrived in Pretoria from the Boer camp at Heidel- 
berg, bearing a letter to the Government covering the procla- 
mation which had been issued by the triumvirate declaring 
the re-establishment of the Eepublic. Translations of these 
documents are appended. I need hardly comment upon the 
assertion contained in this proclamation, for the inaccuracy of 
many of them has been repeatedly shown in previous despatches. 
With regard to their assertion that the Government had broken 
faith with them in reference to what had transpired between 
Mr Kruger and the Colonial Secretary, I append a letter from 
Mr Hudson disproving their statements. But the course 
adopted by the Government in this case was precisely similar 
to that of Sir Theophilus Shepstone and Sir Garnet Wolseley 
with regard to former meetings, so it is impossible for the 
triumvirate to allege that there was anything unusual or likely 
to incite the people in it. 

" In reply to this a proclamation was issued by the Gov- 
ernment, which was forwarded by their messenger (Mr Schoe- 
man) to the triumvirate. Meanwhile the Boers had, without 
waiting for a reply to their communication, taken steps to in- 
tercept and destroy a body of her Majesty's troops on the 
march from Lydenburg to Pretoria. At my request, on the 
23d November, seeing that affairs were beginning to assume a 
more serious aspect, Colonel Bellairs directed a concentration 
of troops in Pretoria, in accordance with the orders left by 
Sir Garnet Wolseley. This was done in anticipation of the 
meeting which had been convened for the 15th January, as at 
that time the Boers had not decided upon calling it for an 
earlier period. This order was received at Lydenburg on the 
27th. The troops, 250 in number, only left, however, on the 
5th December, the cause of delay being the want of transport. 
In regard to this matter, and' as to the military arrangements 
and due precautions which were taken, I beg to refer your 
lordship to the despatch written by Colonel Bellairs, the 
officer commanding the troops in the Transvaal. But it is 
hardly possible to conceive why the officer in command should 
have delayed his march so long, when ordered on urgent and 
temporary service, in order to obtain a large train of 34 ox- 

450 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

waggons (which each carry from 4000 to 5000 Ib. weight) 
for so small a body of men. Seeing that the position of 
affairs was daily becoming more serious, and on hearing that a 
large body of Boers had moved out of their camp in a north- 
erly direction, Colonel Bellairs wrote again to the officer com- 
manding the 94th, urging hirn to press on, and warning him 
that he might expect to be attacked on the road, and impress- 
ing upon him the necessity for careful scouting. This letter 
was received and acknowledged by him on the 17th Decem- 
ber. On Monday, the 20th, he was surprised by the Boers, 
in number about 1500, when the band was playing and the 
men spread over a line about half a mile long. The enemy 
sent in a message with a white flag to order the colonel to 
halt and proceed no further. Whilst this was being done the 
enemy continued to advance under cover of the white flag, 
and so took up the positions which from a previous recon- 
noitre of the ground they had selected as being most suitable 
to pour in a deadly fire on our men. On the receipt of the 
reply that their orders could not be complied with, a murder- 
ous fire was immediately opened upon our men from about 
200 yards off, with such effect that in a short time 57 were 
killed and 101 officers, men, and women wounded. Seeing 
this, and that all his officers had been killed or wounded, 
Colonel Anstruther, who was himself badly wounded in five 
places, but had nevertheless continued to command his men 
with a determined bravery and cool courage which cannot be 
too highly spoken of, gave the order to cease fire. Thus every- 
thing belonging to the headquarters of the 94th fell into the 
hands of the enemy, save the colours, which were hid away by 
the escort and afterwards brought into Pretoria, where they 
now are wrapped up in the colours of the Koyal Scots Fusi- 
liers. A considerable number of rifles, ammunition, and other 
stores were also lost. The news of the disaster was only 
received here at 4 A.M. on Tuesday, the 21st December, as 
the Boers would not give a horse to Conductor Egerton (who 
came in witli the news), nor even allow him to use his own to 
ride in for the medical assistance which was so urgently required. 
In other respects, however, the Boers appear to have behaved 


better than could have been expected to our wounded after the 
action, though that it was hardly what would be looked for 
from a civilised enemy will be apparent from the appended 
extracts from Surgeon-Major Comerford's report. On the re- 
ceipt of this intelligence, and bearing in mind what had trans- 
pired in other parts of the province, the executive considered 
that martial law should be declared in order to strengthen the 
hands of the Government to check agitation in our midst (for 
there are many Boers in the town), and so ensure the public 
safety. Previous to this time some of the inhabitants of the 
town had come forward loyally to aid the Government in case 
any attack should have been made on it, but these in reality 
only represented about one-third of those who were capable of 
bearing arms. I regret to have to state that in some instances 
the young men of the town were prevented from following the 
dictates of their loyalty by their employers, who feared to 
lose some of their Boer customers should it become known 
that their employes had joined the volunteers. Others held 
back from motives of false prudence, or from a dislike to be 
under military control, in which, possibly, their juniors in rank 
and position might be placed over them on account of their 
being trained and more fit. The fact that such hung back in 
a time of emergency was most distasteful and irritating to 
those who had, on the first sign of danger, enrolled them- 
selves. Thrice at public meetings did those assembled ask 
the Government to proclaim martial law, but I did not then 
consider it desirable to adopt so strong a measure. But when 
disaster had overtaken a body of her Majesty's troops within 
thirty-five miles of the seat of Government, and when the 
capital itself was threatened by an armed body of men 
flushed with success, it was high time to take stringent steps 
to oblige the waverers and trimmers to declare themselves, and 
to show that the interests of public safety were paramount to 
personal gain. 

" And further, it will be observed that the Boers themselves 
had proclaimed martial law in their proclamation of the 16th 
instant. Accordingly, martial law was proclaimed on the 21st 
instant throughout the province. Prior to this, preparations 

452 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

had already been made for the defence of the town itself ; but 
bearing in mind the increased numbers of the rebels, and the 
increased confidence and strength resulting from the success 
of their attack upon the 94th, it was judged by the military 
authorities that a more concentrated form of defence was ad- 
visable. The town is very open and scattered, and it would 
have been impossible to guard it from any sudden raid with 
the limited numbers at the disposal of the military. It would 
also have been impossible to prevent communication with the 
enemy on the part of the disloyal citizens save by strict sur- 
veillance ; and further, there would have been great danger 
to the women and children in the event of a street fight. 
Arrangements were therefore made for the reception of the 
townspeople in the camp, jail, and convent, in quarters and 
under canvas. They moved into laager on the 22d. Copy 
of the instructions to the officer commanding the troops 
regarding martial law is herewith appended. 1 On the 23d 
December a letter (copy appended) was received from the 
inhabitants of Heidelberg, stating that Mr Piet Joubert had 
summoned them before him and made certain statements 
regarding the action of the Government which were mislead- 
ing and false. A perusal of this letter will show that these 
allegations were intended to bring odium on the Government 
and to incite the people. The appended copy was therefore 
sent to the writers. It has since transpired that they were 
not free agents in sending it, and that it was prompted by 
Mr Joubert simply to try to discredit the Government in the 
eyes of the people, and to obtain sympathy in their cause 
from the public generally, knowing full well that we could not 
publish a reply to it at the time, nor do anything to contra- 
dict it. No reply has been received to this letter ; but not- 
withstanding that the triumvirate were in possession of our 
reply, and knew that the statements were false, they reiterated 
the charges in a more public and general manner in a second 
proclamation, which they shortly afterwards published. In 
reply to these misstatements the Government published on the 

1 Those instructions undated were not issued to Colonel Bellairs until 
the Gth January. 


1st instant a memorandum recapitulating what had occurred, 
refuting the charges made, and explaining generally the action 
taken by the Government. 

" Since that date the enemy have gradually been approaching 
the town and cutting off all communication and supplies. 
Those who were well disposed towards the Government, but 
who were unable to leave their farms on account of the rapid 
and unexpected course of events, have received harsh treat- 
ment and been heavily indented upon for supplies. Even the 
German missionaries have been so treated, and their superin- 
tendent, Mr Merensky, made a prisoner. In many cases 
people have been forced to join the rebel camp and bear arms. 

" The unfortunate natives have suffered most from this out- 
break because of their loyalty to her Majesty. Numerous 
instances have been reported in which they have been wan- 
tonly shot down. They have been forced to work in the 
camps, and their property and cattle taken to supply the com- 
missariat of men who had large flocks and herds of their own 
to draw upon. Were anything needed to show the necessity 
of her Majesty's rule over the Transvaal, it would be found in 
the reign of terror which exists and the sufferings which have 
been imposed upon these unfortunate natives. 

" Several engagements have taken place in the immediate 
vicinity of Pretoria, in all of which our forces have been suc- 
cessful. In one, however, on Pienaars river, about thirteen 
miles from here, our loss was heavy in consequence of the 
treacherous conduct of the Boers. Twice during that action 
were the troops deliberately fired upon after the white flag had 
been raised : the men hearing the ' cease firing ' sound, and see- 
ing the white flag raised, left their cover, and were immediately 
fired upon, and thus several were killed and many wounded. 
Colonel Gildea, E.S.F., who commanded, had a very narrow 
escape when moving forward with his orderly, both bearing 
white .flags easily discernible, in response to what they sup- 
posed was an appeal for peace. A volley was fired at them 
from the laager, which was only sixty yards off. I append 
copy of the district order published by Colonel Bellairs, com- 
manding troops, on this subject. 

454 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

" It is distressing to have to report such acts of a white foe, 
more especially that in all our former wars even the natives 
have ever respected the use of the white flag. The troops and 
volunteers have behaved well, and according to last reports, 
received through native sources, all the forts are safe, though 
some have been repeatedly attacked by large bodies of Boers. 
On the 21st instant a messenger came in with news of 
reinforcements being on their way. I need hardly say how 
grateful was this intelligence to us all here. We have nearly 
5000 men, women, and children in a very confined space, but 
owing to the excellent arrangements made by Colonel Bellairs, 
everything is far better than could have been anticipated, and 
the health of all is good. The people are cheerful and as con- 
tented as is possible in the circumstances. I have no fears 
for the safety of the position, or of the pluck and determina- 
tion of the forces to hold it. 

" In a separate despatch I will refer to the causes which led 
to this sudden outbreak, and show how unanticipated it was, 
even by the people themselves. That it was the result of a 
sudden impulse there can be little doubt. 

" An opportunity for sending this despatch has only very 
lately occurred, and I have been obliged, therefore, rather 
hurriedly to finish it. A report has reached me that the 
Boers have stated officially that we have lost heavily in our 
engagements. Since the engagement on the 20th December 
we have not lost an officer. Other details will be found in 
Colonel Bellairs's despatch to the Secretary of State for War." 

From Colonel W. BELLAIES, C.B., Commanding Transvaal Dis- 
trict, to the DEPUTY ADJUTANT-GENERAL, Pietermaritzburg. 

" PRETORIA, January 22, 1881. 

" I have the honour to report for the information of the 
Major-General commanding : It having at first been determined 
to defend the town of Pretoria by arming and organising 
its male inhabitants, certain houses and positions had been 
selected for defence, and some labour expended in throwing 
up works. 


" The intelligence of the loss of the headquarter detachment 
of the 94th Eegiment coming in, however, on the 21st of 
December, with the knowledge that the rebel Boers had 
mustered in large force at Heidelberg, Potchefstroom, and 
elsewhere, and had displayed unexpected organisation, leader- 
ship, and daring, caused me, after consultation with his Excel- 
lency the Administrator, Lieut.-Colonel Gildea, commanding 
the garrison, and Major le Mesurier, D.O.K.E., to come to the 
conclusion that the town could not be successfully defended 
by the townspeople, of whom about 250 had at that time 
come forward as volunteers, and many of whom, being con- 
nected by ties with the rebels, were believed to be more or 
less lukewarm in loyalty to the Government. 

" Owing to this latter cause, the more numerous loyal 
inhabitants had held meetings, and asked for the proclamation 
of martial law, so as to oblige all to bear arms and to overawe 
waverers. This was not acceded to at once ; but concurrently 
with the decision arrived at to withdraw from the town, the 
necessity for the proclamation became unavoidable. 

" Martial law was therefore decided upon by his Excellency 
in Council. The inhabitants, however, still wished to remain 
in and defend the town. 

" Finding this to be the case, accompanied by his Excellency 
the Administrator, Lieut.-Colonel Gildea, and Major le Mesurier, 
who had some days before been placed in charge of the volun- 
teers and town defences, I proceeded, on the morning of the 
21st December, to the market-square, where volunteers and 
townspeople were assembled. These were addressed by my- 
self, Lieut.-Colonel Gildea, and Major le Mesurier ; the mili- 
tary necessity for drawing in the lines of defence was pointed 
out, and the evacuation of the town ordered to be effected. 
The suddenness of the order, together with the proclamation 
of martial law following on the spot, took the people by sur- 
prise ; but they speedily acquiesced in the decision arrived at 
by the military authorities, and cheerfully set to work to carry 
out the removal of their families to the camp position. 

"The following day, 22d December, about 3*700 men, 
women, and children removed from comfortable houses to 

456 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

the scanty and crowded accommodation of the camp. All 
day long this mass was streaming backwards and forwards, 
carrying the household goods they required ; but by nightfall 
nearly all had shelter of some sort under tents, waggons, or 
huts, which the soldiers had vacated for them. Subsequently, 
some more huts, which had been building, have been com- 
pleted, and other shelters erected. Order was gradually intro- 
duced into this heterogeneous community through the super- 
vision of gentlemen appointed to act as ward-masters, quarter- 
masters, sanitary inspectors, superintendents of water-supply, 
cattle-pound assistants, &c., to the Commissariat and Eoyal 
Engineer Department. Others capable of bearing arms were 
enrolled in the volunteer corps viz., about 170 mounted and 
450 foot, and employed in increasing and strengthening the 
defences. Towards arming these men, all the available rifles, 
Martini-Henri, Westley-Eichards, Snider, Whitworth, Werndel, 
&c. &c., remaining in the imperial or colonial stores, were 

" Supplies of provisions remaining in the merchant's stores 
in the town were taken possession of by the Commissariat 
Department, also all arms and munitions of war by the Ord- 
nance Store Department, additional storage accommodation 
being built to receive them ; the materials for which had 
also to be removed from the town. Horses, cattle, forage, 
&c., were similarly seized for military purposes from all around, 
compensation being guaranteed in all cases. 

" While all this was going on, the defences were being 
rapidly pushed forward. A covered fort, for twenty-five men 
and a Krupp gun (4-pounder), was constructed on the heights, 
on either side of the South Poort, and afterwards a block-house 
for twelve men immediately guarding the South Poort entrance. 
Port Eoyal, for a company of infantry and a 4-pounder Krupp 
gun, about 700 yards to the east of the camp, commanded the 
entrances to the town on that side. Loretto House (commonly 
called the Convent), a Eoman Catholic educational establish- 
ment, and the civil jail, in the yard of which were placed 
about forty families, 680 yards to the north-east of the camp, 
were joined together, placed in a state of defence, and occupied 


by about 450 foot volunteers, with a 4-pounder Krupp gun 
placed in the south-east bastion of the jail wall. 

"To the west, where the cattle laager was situated, the 
intrenched magazine, recently abandoned, was utilised as a 
picket station, and a block-house was built to the north-west 
for twenty men. 

"The camp, or inner line of defence, consisted of several 
squares, taking in the store buildings, soldiers' huts, married 
quarters, officers' mess, stables, &c., all loopholed, and placed 
in a state of defence, with shelter-sheds around for the men to 
sleep in and be at their respective posts. 

"As may be readily understood, the work of suddenly 
improvising accommodation for such a large increase to the 
camp, laying in food, forage, fuel, &c., for an anticipated in- 
vestment of long duration, largely adding to the defences of 
the place, and at the same time making reconnaissances and 
attacks on the enemy's position around, was a source of great 
and constant anxiety to those charged with carrying out the 
necessary arrangements, and attended with great toil to all, 
whether soldiers or civilians. 

" The conduct of the inhabitants throughout all these 
troubles has been such as to call forth special commendation. 
Gentlemen, no matter what their rank and position, have cheer- 
fully accepted the duties assigned to them. A judge has become 
a ward-master, and serves out bread and meat ; a Wesleyan 
chaplain acts most energetically as chief sanitary inspector ; 
a mayor as chief ward-master; members of the Government 
and Executive Council give their services when required on 
picket duty ; and two or three of them, from their special 
knowledge of the country, are found most useful with the 
reconnoitring parties sent out. Others barristers, attorneys, 
merchants, bankers, surveyors, &c., find themselves in the 
ranks with volunteers. All work with a will, with a very few 
exceptions ; and among these latter, I regret to have to place 
the civil medical practitioners, four in number. 

" These gentlemen thought proper, after working satisfac- 
torily for four weeks in the medical posts assigned to them, 
to send in a ' round-robin,' demanding not less than five 

458 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

guineas a-day for their services ; and on this not being con- 
ceded, but pay at one guinea a-day, with rations, being sanc- 
tioned (the rate paid to the English civil surgeons during the 
Zulu war), they sent in their resignation. The conduct of one 
was the more reprehensible as he is a Government official a 
district surgeon. 

" The behaviour of her Majesty's troops has been excellent, 
but little of the ordinary crime existing, and desertion having 
ceased the latter fact, notwithstanding that the rebels in a 
crafty manner tried to tempt the soldiers to quit their colours, 
through having given liberty to those privates they had taken 
prisoners, passing them across the border into the Orange Free 

" Martial law has at present been carried on without occa- 
sion for severity. Although the town has been almost wholly 
abandoned, property has been respected, with minor excep- 
tions, at first of fruit, &c., being stolen ; but the punishments 
inflicted on those thus found offending soon arrested this evil. 
Many of the female portion of the inhabitants are in the habit 
of spending the day at their houses, and waggons go backwards 
and forwards for their convenience. 

" Frequent reconnaissances in force have been made. De- 
spatches, referring to those in which the enemy was encoun- 
tered, are sent separately. 

" As regards the out-stations, all the forts are believed to be 
still holding out successfully, though, from indirect sources, I 
learn that they have been invested and attacked. 

" At Potchefstroom there would appear to have been much 
fighting, with heavy losses to the rebels, causing them to adopt 
the sitting-down and starving-out tactics. At Eustenburg the 
rebels are said to be endeavouring to work up to the fort by 
sap, but had lost many men. At Lydenburg the rebels are 
said to have retired into the village, after having failed in an 
attack ; and then, having incautiously left their horses out to 
gra/e, the soldiers sallied forth and shot three Boers, and be- 
tween thirty and forty horses. 

" Marabastadt had not been directly attacked up to the 
12 tli inst. 


" Throughout I have experienced the most cordial co-opera- 
tion from Sir Owen Lanyon, and I feel greatly indebted to his 
Excellency for the uniform support he has given me." 


District Orders by Colonel W. BELLAIRS, C.B. 

"PRETORIA, January 5, 1881. 

" It appearing that some of the inhabitants of Pretoria have 
not given their services for the defence of the place, but still 
remain in the town, the Deputy Provost-Marshal is instructed 
to cause a register, in such form as he considers desirable, to 
be kept of all such persons. Accordingly, to effect this, all 
such persons, white and coloured, are required to appear before 
the Landdrost, for the purpose of being registered, between 
the hours of 9 and 12 o'clock A.M. to-morrow. Any person 
neglecting to appear will be arrested, and all will be placed 
under the surveillance of the Deputy Provost-Marshal, and 
will be guided by the orders given to them by that officer. 
Inhabitants remaining in the town are warned that they do so 
at their own risk and on their own responsibility, that the 
town may, under certain contingencies, be shelled or blown up ; 
and further, that any remaining in it will not hereafter be 
received into the camp, or otherwise provided for. They will 
also understand that, should they be found holding correspond- 
ence with, or giving intelligence to the enemy, or in any way 
assisting, harbouring, or protecting a rebel, or committing any 
other offence provided for by the Army Discipline Act, they 
will be rigorously dealt with." 

"PRETORIA, February 23, 1881. 

" As many of the inhabitants, under various pretences and 
causes some with certificates of illness have lately left the 
lines of defence for the purpose of residing in the town, not- 
withstanding the warning conveyed by District Order published 

460 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

on the 5th ultimo, the Colonel commanding, having regard to 
the great risk such persons are running, desires again to caution 
all so acting that the danger from attack has by no means 
passed by ; and that, in the event of the town being attacked 
and entered by the rebels, they may find themselves placed 
between two fires, exposed to explosions of various kinds, and 
should they, in the dark and confusion of an alarm, attempt to 
regain the camp, received with volleys from our own people. 
Wherever rebels appear they will be fired upon, and the fact 
of men, women, or children being in any part of the town 
held by them, will in no way prevent a fire being opened on 
that part from this place." 


District Orders by Colonel BELLAIRS, C.B. 

" PRETORIA, January 1, 1881. 

" No. 1. The action taken by the rebels in cutting off com- 
munication around, and preventing supplies reaching Pretoria, 
and in purloining Government and private horses, cattle, and 
supplies on their way to that town, has necessitated the com- 
mandeering or seizing of horses, cattle, and supplies in the 
interest of the public service, and to meet the requirements 
of the inhabitants and troops of Pretoria. In all cases where 
this has been clone, compensation will be made for the same 
hereafter to all owners who can prove themselves to have 
been loyal subjects during the present civil war. 

" The fact, however, of such commandeering being necessary 
for the public service, will in no way justify any individual, 
military or civilian, in seizing or appropriating to his own use 
anything on private premises, even though such premises may 
have been abandoned ; and no destruction or damage to private 
premises will be allowed at any time, unless it be necessary 
for the purpose of defence. 


" Attention is called to the provisions of the 6th section of 
the Army Discipline Act, to which all are now, under martial 
law, subject ; and the Deputy Provost-Marshal and officers 
generally will be careful to arrest any individual committing 
an infraction of the same, viz. : 

" ' 6. Every person subject to military law who commits any 

of the following offences that is to say : 
" '(1.) Leaves his commanding officer to go in search of 

plunder ; ' or 

" ' (6.) Commits any offence against the property or person 
of any inhabitant of, or resident in, the country 
in which he is serving ; ' or 

" ' (6.) Breaks into any house or other place in search of 
plunder, shall, on conviction by court-martial, if 
he commits any such offence on active service, 
be liable to suffer death, or such less punishment 
as is in this Act mentioned.' " 

"PRETORIA, January 3, 1881. 

" Horses which have been commandeered from private in- 
dividuals for the public service will, if desired, be returned to 
the owners at the close of hostilities. 

" Such horses, to avoid permanent disfigurement, will be only 
branded on the hoof, but will be valued the same as others, 
and compensation granted in case of loss while in public 

" Owners desirous that this arrangement should be carried 
out, should at once notify their wishes in writing, describing 
their horses, to the Garrison Adjutant." 

" PRETORIA, January 3, 1881. 

" Complaints have reached the ears of the Colonel command- 
ing, of depredations having been committed on the properties 
of inhabitants since they removed from this town ; and that 
volunteers and others, under pretence that they were acting 
under authority, have demanded from servants left in charge 
of private premises, and taken for their own use, articles of 
produce, poultry, &c. 

462 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

" Colonel Bellairs trusts that any inhabitants who have so 
suffered will endeavour to identify such marauders, and lodge 
complaints against them to the Deputy Provost-Marshal, when, 
on sufficient proof, the offenders will be rigorously dealt with." 


From Colonel W. BELLAIRS, C.B., Commanding Transvaal 
District, to the DEPUTY LIEUTENANT-GENERAL, Pieter- 

"PRETORIA, January 31, 1881. 

" 1. I have the honour to report, for the information of the 
Major-General commanding, in continuance of my despatch of 
the 22d instant, that since that date, no direct communication 
lias been received from Natal, or any of the military posts in 
the Transvaal, with the exception of that at Rustenburg. 

"2. I enclose a copy of a report made by Captain Auchin- 
leck, 2/2 1st Toot, commanding at Rustenburg, giving a diary 
of events in the defence of the fort between the 24th Decem- 
ber and 20th January, together with my observations on the 
same attached. 

" 3. Indirectly, from natives, I hear that the rebel force 
investing the fort at Potchefstroom having been weakened, 
and the Boers having attempted to capture the town magazine, 
about 300 yards from the fort, a mine was sprung upon them, 
and in the panic which ensued, the garrison sallied forth with 
the guns, resulting in a loss to the rebels of sixty or seventy 
killed, waggons destroyed and oxen captured. 

" 4. The experience of this war hitherto would seem to 
show that, however formidable the Boers may be on horseback, 
in consequence of our want of a sufficient force of cavalry, 
they can never encounter us with any chance of success on 

" 5. The wisdom of evacuating the town of Pretoria, and 
drawing in the line of defence, has been abundantly proved. 


This step has, no doubt, hitherto prevented any real attack of 
this place, and the probability, otherwise, of the town falling 
into the hands of the enemy. From information received 
from indirect sources, it would seem that our action in these 
particulars took the rebels by surprise, as they had anticipated 
and hoped that, through some of the townspeople sympathising 
with them, and others being anxious to keep well with both 
sides and save their property, the town would have been ill 
defended, and would, like Potchefstroom, have fallen an easy 
prey to them. 

" 6. The defences of Pretoria have been further improved. 
A small mounted torpedo corps has been organised, consisting 
of mounted sappers, together with mounted volunteers and 
natives who are well acquainted with the surrounding country. 
The forts are provided with improvised hand-grenades, and 
certain spots about the town and elsewhere mined. Blue- 
lights, mounted on poles with reflectors, are also in readiness, 
as means of discovering the near approach of the enemy on 
dark nights. The system of signalling between the forts, and 
with columns sent exterior to the place by means of the 
heliograph and flags by day, and flashing lamps by night 
has been rendered very perfect, and has been of great assist- 
ance and saving of labour. 

" 7. The season has been, and continues, unusually wet. 
This has, no doubt, had the advantage of causing the atmo- 
sphere to be cooler and the camp healthier than might have 
been the case in ordinary years. The horse-sickness disease 
has also probably, from this cause, been postponed, though its 
ravages may not be deferred much longer. In consequence 
of the want of horses, mules are being trained for the use of 
the native scouts. 

" 8. The manufacture of biltong (dried beef), hay, and cow- 
dung fuel proceeds daily. 

" 9. Surgeon "Ward and civil surgeon Crow still remain at 
Modder Spruit with the wounded of the 94th Foot. No 
direct communication has been received from them, but in- 
directly I learn that the men left to attend on the sixty-two 
wounded have most of them been sent to Heidelberg, and that 

464 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

medicine sent from here had been appropriated for the rebel 
wounded at Zwart Koppie, and was not forwarded on. I, 
however, caused a fresh supply to be despatched, but have not 
been able to hear whether it reached or not." 


From Colonel W. BELLAIRS, C.B., Commanding Transvaal 
District, to the DEPUTY ADJUTANT -GENERAL, Pieter- 

" PRETORIA, February 6, 1881. 

"1. In continuation of my despatch of the 31st ultimo, I 
have the honour to report, for the information of the Major- 
General commanding, that the strength of the rebel force in- 
vesting Pretoria is believed, from reconnaissances made, to 
have been recently reduced probably from all available men 
having been withdrawn to increase the force understood to be 
collecting on the Vaal to arrest the progress of the troops 
coming from Natal. The large force previously at Heidelberg 
has similarly been reduced. 

"2. It is difficult to estimate the numbers in the different 
positions held, as they are constantly varying, through a system 
of frequent reliefs being carried out. The following may, 
however, be considered the present approximate numbers of 
waggons and men occupying the defensive laagers in this 
neighbourhood, viz. : 

" (1.) Elandsfontein, ten miles west of Pretoria, about 
twelve waggons in a deep and precipitous ravine, 
surrounded by stone sconces, some of which are on 
the summit of a rather high hill, part of the Daas- 
Poort range. A strong position, with about one 
hundred Boers, but who can be reinforced to double 
that number from a camp a little farther westward, 
the precise situation of which has not been properly 


" (2.) Albertus Pretorius's Farm, where the six-mile spruit 
runs through the range south of Pretoria, fifteen 
miles west by south of Pretoria. A strong position, 
and very difficult of approach ; was at one time a 
large laager, but now has twenty to thirty waggons, 
with about the same number of men, and a good 
many women and children. 

" (3.) Red House, Erasmus Erasmus's Place, eleven miles south 
by west of Pretoria, and three miles west of main 
road to Heidelberg, consists of a brick house, with 
a stone kraal to the left, and a laager of fifteen 
waggons. It is situated on the top of a slope ; 
visible from every side ; can be easily approached, 
and is commanded by higher ground to the south ; 
is not a strong position the country being com- 
paratively open around when approaching it from 
the north. About one hundred and fifty Boers are 
stationed here ; but this number can be readily in- 
creased from the laager at Strydon's Farm, three or 
four miles to the eastward. 

" (4.) Strydon's Farm, on road to Heidelberg, twelve to 
fourteen miles south of Pretoria. Not sufficient 
information as to its exact position ; but the country 
being open, it is not probably a strong position. 
About two hundred Boers. 

" (5.) Daniel Erasmus's Farm, on six-mile spruit, eleven 
miles south-east of Pretoria, and one mile to west- 
ward of direct road to Standerton. Twenty to 
thirty waggons in a rather strong position under a 
hill, one mile east of the farmhouse, on left bank 
of the stream, along which the ground is very 
marshy. About one hundred Boers. 

" (6.) Struben's Farm, one and a half miles to south-west 
of house, eleven miles east of Pretoria. A small 
laager, with twenty to thirty men in a very strong 

" (7.) Swavel Poort, five miles east by south of last. A 
very strong position in a rugged and precipitous 
2 G 

466 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

ravine, with about eighty to one hundred Boers. 
Number of waggons unknown. 

" (8.) Venten's Farm, about fourteen miles north-east of 
Pretoria, near junction of spruit from Grays with 
Pienaars river. A women's laager, with forty to 
fifty waggons, and perhaps the same number of 
fighting men. Particulars as to position, and 
strength not fully ascertained. 

" (9.) Derde Poort, nine miles east by north of Pretoria. A 
small laager at the foot of a hill in the Magalies- 
berg range, with only a few men. 

"(10.) Wonderboom Poort, six miles north of Pretoria, with 
laager of about twenty waggons on right bank of 
Aapies river, under a hill three miles north of the 
Poort, on Hans Fourie's Farm. The Poort and 
neck to the east form a naturally strong position, 
and is further defended by stone walls and sconces. 
About two hundred Boers. 

" 3. The above completes the circle. The laagers are so 
placed as to afford support to each other in case of attack 
signal-fires being lighted to give notice of any enemy approach- 
ing. The last reconnaissance made set in motion about six 
hundred Boers towards the point of danger. In addition to 
the numbers given above, the rebels have with them their 
farm natives, on whom they can rely, and utilise them to 
patrol and guard their waggons. They also oblige the men 
of adjoining Kafir kraals to labour for them in erecting 
defences, &c. 

" The localities of the waggon laagers are frequently changed, 
and invariably after an attack on the position. 

" I enclose a sketch-map, showing the different positions 
made by Mr Melvill, the Surveyor-General, who, as head of 
the Intelligence Branch, I have found has been of great as- 
sistance to me. 

" 4. The accompanying further intelligence, to the 30th 
ultimo, has been received from Captain Auchinleck, 2/2 1st 
Foot, showing that all was going on well at Piustenburg Fort 
to that date. 


" No present anxiety need be entertained for the garrisons 
at the different posts as regards provisions, sufficient supplies 
having been laid in before hostilities commenced to enable 
them to hold out for long periods. 

" A native report has come in to the effect that an English 
force of about four hundred men, coming from the Orange Free 
State, had reached Potchefstroom about the 23d ultimo. As 
a band is represented as accompanying the troops, I conjec- 
ture that, if true, it must be the headquarter wing of the 58th 
Eegiment ; and that, having effected the relief of the fort, the 
whole force then returned through the Orange Free State to 
Natal or Standerton. 

" The despatch and receipt of messages is rendered very 
difficult from the preventive measures carried out by the 
rebels. From information received from time to time, there is 
reason to believe that suspected natives are frequently stripped, 
and their clothes burnt, and that when any letter is discovered 
death is inflicted. 

" The scarcity of officers of the regular forces, present and 
fit for duty, has been at all times during this war a serious 
embarrassment to contend against, and has caused increased 
anxiety to those responsible for the efficient carrying out of 
operations in the field, and for the safety of the extended lines 
of defence of this place. This want of officers has, I am in- 
clined to think, led to some casualties which their supervision 
might have prevented.'' 


Administrator Sir W. OWEN LANYON, K.C.M.G., C.B., to the 

Eight Hon. the EARL OF KIMBERLEY. (Eeceived May 
10, 1881. Extract.) 

" PRETORIA, March 18, 1881. 

" . . . In my former despatch I was only able briefly 
to refer to the steps which had been taken to prevent the 

468 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

capital from falling into the hands of the enemy. On the 
21st December, martial law was proclaimed, and in twenty- 
four hours the whole population of the town was in laager, 
i.e., within fortified cantonments, and being provided for 
under military control. When the following return of the 
civil population is considered, some idea may be formed of 
the difficulties to be contended with in so promptly carrying 
out these arrangements : 

" Europeans 

Men, ...... 975 

Women, .... 676 

Children, . . . . .718 

Servants, natives, &c., .... 1331 


" The officer commanding the Transvaal (Colonel Bellairs, 
C.B.) cheerfully undertook all the arrangements, and I cannot 
speak too highly of the prompt and efficient way in which 
they were carried out. All the provisions, forage, horses, and 
cattle were taken over by the military authorities, and every 
one was put on soldier's rations. In a population so well to 
do as is that of Pretoria, it can easily be imagined that such 
restrictions as to diet must be very hard to bear. 

" It cannot be supposed that hardships are not being 
incurred, or that there is no consequent grumbling on the 
part of those who, by force of circumstances, have to submit 
to extreme discomfort, and even privation. Such is a natu- 
ral consequence when the public safety is so far threatened as 
to necessitate the supersession of civil rights by martial law. 
But generally the people make the best of their troubles, and 
it is surprising to me how bravely and stoically they bear 
them. The conduct of the women merits unqualified admira- 
tion, for they have the additional anxiety to bear in knowing 
that at any moment those who protect and support them may 
be called upon to drive back the enemy. In all the sorties 
which have been made, the sound of the fight could be dis- 


tinctly heard from the camp, and sometimes the operations 
could be viewed from it. I know of no instance in such cases 
in which a mother, a wife, a sister, or a daughter said or did 
aught to unnerve him who was going out to fight, or who 
faltered during the anxious time which ensued ; and in this 
list of brave women I include both civil and military. These 
are women whose conduct in a time of great difficulty and 
danger one cannot honour too much. 

" That they had good cause for anxiety may be gathered 
from the returns of killed and wounded of the two cavalry 
corps which have been raised in the town of Pretoria, and in 
which are serving many of their relatives. These corps, the 
Pretoria Carbineers and Nourse's Horse, have suffered severely, 
for, being mounted, they were always in the front. The fol- 
lowing return of their numbers at the beginning of the war, 
and of their casualties during the two months they have been 
engaged on active service, will show this : 


Officers and Men. 

8 111 

Killed in action, and died from wounds, . 5 

Wounded in action, ... 3 11 

Percentage of casualties, . .37 14 


4 64 

Killed in action, ... 2 

Wounded, .... 1 8 

Percentage of casualties, . .20 16 

" From this it will be perceived that the percentage of 
killed and wounded has been very heavy in a short time. 

" The enemy to be encountered are much more formidable 
than any as yet engaged by troops or volunteers in South 
Africa. They are composed of men who have been accustomed 
to the use of arms from their earliest youth, who are armed 
with breech-loading rifles of precision, are well mounted, and 
know the country thoroughly. It is worthy of note, also, 
that this is the first time that our troops have been exposed 

470 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

to a breech-loading fire, and that the enemy are practised shots 
tends to make it all the more formidable. 

" The arrangements for the protection of the camp and 
laagers are excellent, and the sanitary organisation has been 
so well devised that the rate of sickness is below the average. 
The military authorities have been unceasing in their attention 
to such measures ; and the fact that there is so little sickness 
among people who are so overcrowded, reflects the highest 
credit upon them. I consider that we are all greatly indebted 
to Colonel Bellairs, and those serving under his command, for 
their exertions in this respect. 

" The outbreak came so suddenly upon all that no one was 
able to make any preparation to meet it. Had not prompt 
measures been taken, therefore, to secure all the available 
provisions and stores, and thus prevent wasteful expenditure, 
there is little doubt that our necessaries of life would have run 
short. But owing to timely precautions, we have an ample stock 
for all our wants, and there is no cause to apprehend that there 
will not be sufficient to last until we can be relieved. 

" The military situation and operations have been fully 
reported in the several despatches written by the officer com- 
manding the troops, from which your lordship will be able to 
gather what has transpired since I last wrote. 

" The weather has been most favourable ; few can remember 
KO cool and so seasonable a summer ; and this has tended 
greatly towards the recovery of those wounded." 


District Order by Colonel W. BELLAIRS, C.B., Commanding 
Transvaal District. 

"PRETORIA, December 22, 1880. 

" The following will be the daily ration of supplies, issuable 
to all troops, volunteers, and wardsmen at Pretoria, viz. : 

" Bread 1 \ lb., or biscuit 1 lb., or flour 1 lb., or Boer 
meal 1 lb. 


" Coffee oz., sugar 2 f oz. 

" Fresh potatoes | lb., or other vegetables f lb., or com- 
pressed vegetables 1 oz., or rice 2 oz., or beans 2 oz. 

"Fresh or salt meat 1| lb., or preserved meat 1 lb., or bil- 
tong \ lb. 

" Tea l-6th oz., salt \ oz. 

" Light. Candles at usual scale to the troops and enrolled 

" Per marquee for civilians per diem, 2 oz. 

" Per tent do. do. 2 oz. 

" Fuel for all officers and men per diem, 3 lb. 

" The regular forces and enrolled volunteers will draw in 
addition the usual allowance of Erbswurst, lime-juice, sugar, 
and pepper. 

" These supplies will be issued to the remainder in the lines of 
defence on the recommendation of the several medical officers 
in charge, if the approval of the senior medical officer, Trans- 
vaal, be obtained ; but, being limited, it is trusted that the 
utmost discretion may be used in asking for them. 

"Women will be entitled to half the above rations, and 
children to one-fourth of the same. Children will be treated 
as adults after the age of twelve years. 

" Children under one year of age will not receive any 

" Free rations will be issued to enrolled volunteers. Charges 
to the value of the supplies issued will be made against each 
civilian who has drawn from the commissariat, and is con- 
tinuing to do so. 1 

" Issue to commence daily at 5 A.M. 

" Extra supplies such as pickles, biscuits, maizena, arrowroot, 
corn flour, hams, bacon, tinned soups, fish, jam, condensed 
milk, cocoa and milk, essence of beef, &c. &c., may be drawn 
on the certificate of the medical officer in charge. 

" Charges will be made for the value of these extras against 
the individuals who draw them. 

" Disinfectants, consisting of Caparlicum, Condy's fluid, 

1 The Administrator subsequently directed that all civilians should have 
free rations. 

472 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

Barnett's fluid, disinfecting powder, Jay's perfect purifier and 
lime, in no very large quantities are held by the commissariat, 
and are at the disposal of the several medical officers in 
charge ; the demands must be countersigned by the senior 
medical officer. 

"The utmost care will be exercised in demanding and 
issuing disinfectants, upon which the sanitary condition of the 
camp so much depends. 

" Cavendish tobacco will be issued on repayment, to the 
troops and enrolled volunteers, at the rate of 3s. per Ib. Soap 
by the bar at original weights will be issued to the troops at 
6d. per Ib., and to civilians at 9d. per Ib. 

" Forage rations will be issued daily at the following scale 
for the present : 

" English horses 1 Ib. oat hay, 8 Ib. mealies, | oz. salt. 

" Officers' chargers 1 Ib. oat hay, 8 Ib. mealies, | oz. salt. 

" Colonial horses 2 Ib. oat hay, 8 Ib. mealies, oz. salt. 

" Mules 1 Ib. mealies or Kafir corn. 

" The daily issues, inclusive of Sundays, will be made as 
follows, viz. : 

" The depot at the camp will supply all the troops and 
civilians within its lines as well as those quartered in Fort 

" The depot at the jail will supply all the occupants within 
the jail and convent lines. 

" Issues will be made to the respective hospital by these 

" Groceries will be issued to married families in addition, 
twice a-week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays." 


From Colonel W. BELLAIKS, C.B., Commanding Transvaal Dis- 
trict, to the DEPUTY ADJUTANT-GENERAL, Pietermaritzburg. 

" PRETORIA, February 14, 1881. 
" In continuation of my despatch of the 6th instant, I have 


the honour to report, for the information of the Major-General 
commanding, that on the 8th instant a rebel Boer came in 
with a flag of truce, bringing a letter from Mr P. Kruger, 
Vice-President of the so-called South African Republic, to 
his Excellency the Administrator, requesting an exchange of 
political prisoners. A reply was returned to the effect that 
this could not be acceded to. 

" 2. On the following day a white flag came in from the 
Wonderboom Poort, with a letter from Mr H. J. Schoeman, a 
member of the former Boer Committee, and son of a Comman- 
dant-General of the late South African Republic, addressed to 
the Hon. P. Marais, member of the Executive Council, request- 
ing to be allowed to meet that gentleman to devise means to 
arrest further bloodshed. An answer was sent back that he 
could come in to the Daas Poort for the purpose of speaking 
to Mr Marais the following morning, which he accordingly 
did. The conversation, however, resulted only in a sugges- 
tion that a Republic under the protectorate of England should 
form the basis of a treaty between ourselves and the rebels, 
and Mr Schoeman talking wildly of the successes of his 
people ; that they expected to be soon joined by the Orange 
Free State and the Dutch party of the Cape Colony ; that 
two cannon were close at hand ; and that Sir George Pomeroy 
Colley had been driven off the frontier with heavy losses. 
Mr Schoeman was allowed to see his brother and sister, who 
are in our camp, in the presence of Mr Marais. He expressed 
a wish to see me, but I sent him a message, concurred in by 
Sir Owen Lanyon, declining, unless he could assure me that 
he would, on leaving, endeavour to bring about an uncon- 
ditional surrender of the rebels. Mr Schoeman's intention 
in visiting us was, in my opinion, mainly to gather informa- 
tion as to the disposition of the townspeople, and the Dutch 
element in particular. I have no doubt that in every way 
he has been disappointed. 

"3. Some hours before daylight, on the 12th instant, I 
sent out a mixed body of troops, under Lieutenant-Colonel 
Gildea, to attack the enemy's position at the Red House, 
E. Erasmus's farm, ten miles south of Pretoria, on the Heidel- 

474 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

berg road, the scene of a previous attack on the 29th ultimo, 
already reported upon. Lieutenant- Colonel Gildea's despatch, 
with my remarks thereon, is attached. The object in view 
was not gained, resulting mainly from Lieutenant -Colonel 
Gildea and the officer commanding the mounted covering- 
party, Captain Sanctuary, Pretoria Carbineers, being both 
wounded and disabled at a time when their presence was 
necessary to ensure success. 

" 4. An ambulance-waggon with some wounded men, and 
Surgeon-Major Geoghegan in charge, having fallen into the 
hands of the enemy from having advanced too far into the 
fight, I, the same evening, instructed civil surgeon Dyer to 
proceed at once with two ambulance -waggons to the Eed 
House, with a letter copy enclosed addressed to the Boer 
Commandant, requesting that the wounded and prisoners 
might be returned. This was acceded to, and they came in 
the following day. I have directed a court of inquiry to 
investigate and report upon the circumstances attending Sur- 
geon-Major Geoghegan being made a prisoner, as also state- 
ments which have been made alleging that the attendants 
of the ambulance-waggon were fired upon and wounded. 

" 5. The temporary loss of Lieutenant -Colonel Gildea's 
services will be much felt. My last despatch drew attention 
to the embarrassment created through want of officers, and, 
of course, the withdrawal of an officer of Lieutenant-Colonel 
Gildea's position and capacity will greatly add to the strain. 
Energetic and daring, yet at the same time cautious, Lieu- 
tenant-Colonel Gildea has proved himself a most reliable and 
valuable officer, always ready and capable of coping with any 
emergency arising in camp or field. As rny second in com- 
mand, he has uniformly been of great assistance to me in 
organising means for defence, and for the regulation of the 
large body of townspeople in camp. As his wound is doing 
well, lie will, I trust, in a few weeks, be fit for light duties. 

" G. The daily decreasing number of effective horses, arising 
from horse-sickness and war casualties, gradually but surely 
lessens our power for offensive operations. 

" 7. Further intelligence has come in this morning from 


Rustenburg to the 6th instant. I enclose a copy of a report 
made by 2d Lieutenant Despard, 2d Bn. 21st Foot, on whom 
the command of the fort had again devolved, Captain Auchin- 
leck having been wounded for the second time within a few 
weeks this time, I regret to say, seriously while intrepidly 
leading a sortie made on the enemy's trenches. Two of our 
positions Rustenburg and Lydenburg are thus now held 
with 2cl lieutenants in command." 


Enclosure 1 in No. 30 (c. 2950). 

From President BRAND to General Sir E. WOOD. 

"NEWCASTLE, March 3. 

" I thank your Excellency for kindly forwarding Joubert's 
telegram. I shall write by to-day's post to Kruger, to be 
forwarded by express to Heidelberg from Kronstadt. I think 
every well-wisher of South Africa fervently prays that further 
bloodshed may be avoided. Could not some means be devised 
to suspend hostilities and offer facilities for negotiations. It 
was so hopeful before the fight in which Sir G. Colley unfor- 
tunately fell. I knew him personally, and esteemed him 
very much. His death is very much regretted, and all feel 
for Lady Colley. Your Excellency knows the good qualities 
of the Boers, and spoke well of the late Piet Uys, and of 
them. I am sure you will be able to contribute much to a 
peaceable settlement, which will rejoice the whole of South 
Africa, and ensure to her Majesty's Government the affections 
of the whole white population. I intend to leave Bloemfon- 
tein on the 7th (next Monday), and to be at Harrismith on 
or about the loth instant." 

476 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

Enclosure 2 in No. 30. 
From General WOOD to President BEAND. 

"NEWCASTLE, March 3. 

" I gratefully acknowledge your Honour's continuous efforts 
in the cause of peace, and I cordially desire such may ensue 
without further bloodshed. I know and esteem many of those 
now in arms against my Sovereign, and I therefore regret 
doubly they will not, by desisting from armed opposition, open 
the door to arrangements which I conscientiously believe 
might be rendered acceptable to every reasonable Africander. 
Any reinforcements I require are placed at my disposal, but 
I would greatly prefer they should not be sent here. I would 
gladly abstain from making any movement in advance of my 
present position till the 10th March, if Boers on their part 
promised the same, and you believe peace would at once 
ensue. But your Honour will understand, as they not only 
blockade our garrisons in Transvaal, but occupy Natal terri- 
tory, I cannot go further in my desire to stop the war. Any 
communication you may desire to have made to the Boers 
shall be transmitted through our posts. I hear Mr Kruger 
lias gone to Eustenburg. In justice to our common friend 
Sir G. Colley, I state he did not receive any answer to his 
message or letter ; and I read Mr Bok's letter, which was not 
received until Sir George was dead." 

Enclosure 3 in No. 30. 

From President BKAND, Bloemfontein, to General WOOD, 

"March 4. 

" I thank your Excellency for your telegram, and highly 
appreciate your sentiments. Could not your Excellency and 
Joubert and Kruger meet, and try and arrange some plan to 
suspend hostilities for a certain fixed time, to offer facilities 
for negotiation ? I cannot do anything, for my letters take 
such a long time to reach, and I do not know what has been 


done since the 17th ultimo in the way of peace negotiations. 
I gladly avail myself of your Excellency's kind offer to send 
a telegram to Joubert to ask him whether he could not meet 
your Excellency and arrange some plan by which hostilities 
could be stopped for a certain fixed time, to offer facilities for 
peace negotiations." 

Enclosure 4 in No. 30. 
From President BRAND to Commandant- General JOUBERT. 

"March 4. 

" I received a telegram from General "Wood this morning 
in reply to mine which thanked him for the telegram he for- 
warded from you. It is evident that he is as anxious as we 
are to prevent further bloodshed. I have requested General 
Wood to forward this telegram to you, and I have asked him 
whether you and he could not meet and try to arrange some 
plan by which hostilities could be suspended for a certain 
fixed time, in order to offer facilities for peace negotiations. 
Send answer to General Wood." 

Enclosure 5 in No. 30. 

From Commandant-General JOUBERT, Lang's Nek, to 
President BRAND, Bloemfontein. 

" March 4. 

" Your telegram received in reply. Government and people 
of Transvaal fully agree with you that no further blood should 
be shed. It is alone in the power of the English Ministry to 
prevent, against whose attacks we defend ourselves. We are 
willing to accept every effort made by your Honour that peace 
may be restored as far as it is not in direct opposition to our 
liberty. Will you forward your telegram at once to President 
Kruger ? " 

Enclosure 6 in No. 30. 

From JOUBERT to General WOOD, Newcastle. 

" March 4. 

" I herewith enclose a telegram received by me from Presi- 

478 THE THANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

dent Brand. I shall have pleasure in learning how far you 
will be ready to co-operate in the serious proposition therein 
contained, in order that I may as speedily as possible inform 
my patrols, as also the different camps in the Republic, in the 
hope of a reply." 

Enclosure 7 in No. 30. 

From General WOOD to Commandant-General JOUBEKT, 
Lang's Nek. 

" March 5. 

" I will meet you and any three Dutch gentlemen half-way 
between Prospect Camp and Nek to-morrow, at noon, if I hear 
from you this evening." 

Enclosure 10 in No. 30. 
Commandant-General JOUBEKT to General WOOD. 

" March 5. 

"Your telegram received. In reply, I shall willingly be 
ready to meet you to-morrow at 12." 

Enclosure 11 in No. 30. 

March 6, 1881. 

Present at Meeting : 
British. -Boer. 

Major-General Sir Evelyn Wood. Mr Piet Joubert. 
Major Eraser. Mr D. C. Uys. 

Captain Maude. Mr C. J. Joubert. 

Mr Thornborough Cropper. Mr G. H. Fouclire. 

Mr A. J. Eorster, Interpreter." 

HEADS of CONDITIONS of an ARMISTICE proposed to be 
agreed between the BRITISH and BOER FORCES. 

' Be it understood that the object of this armistice is to 


allow time for Mr Kruger to consider and reply to the com- 
munications that may pass between the representative sides 
for the sake of procuring a peaceable settlement of the points 
at issue. 

" I, Sir Evelyn Wood, agree, on the part of her Majesty's 
British Government, and I, Piet Joubert, agree, on the part of 
the Transvaal Boers' Government, for a cessation of hostilities 
from noon on the 6th March 1881 till midnight on Monday 
the 14th of March 1881. The following to be the condi- 
tions : 

" Schedule I. During that time each side promises to make 
no forward movement in advance of its present positions 
neither by armed parties nor by scouts ; but each re- 
tains its liberty of movement within its own lines. 
" Schedule II. That Sir Evelyn Wood or his successor is 
free to send eight days' provisions and firewood, but no 
ammunition, through Boer lines, for all his garrisons in 
the Transvaal, if he think proper to do so. That the 
Boer officers ( ) undertake to pass it to such 

garrisons, and, equally with the British garrisons, to sus- 
pend all hostilities for eight days subsequent to the 
arrival of the provisions ; and that all persons sent with 
the waggons shall return with them, without, however, 
entering the places they are sent to, and not remain to 
augment the garrisons to which they bring provisions. 
Such persons, the waggons, and conductors, to be con- 
sidered neutral until they are again within British lines. 
" Schedule III. That Piet Joubert undertakes to send 
notice of the conditions of the armistice at once to the 
respective garrisons and to the Boer commanders there. 
That he will use his influence to induce these command- 
ers to allow the withdrawal within the British lines in 
Natal of all wounded in the aforesaid garrisons. 


Major-General . 

Commandant- General." 

480 THE TKANSVAAL WAK, 1880-81. 

Enclosure 12 in No. 30. 

TEEMS of four days' prolongation of Armistice at Meeting 
held March 14. 1881. 

" It is hereby agreed between Major-General Sir Evelyn 
Wood, K.C.B., commanding her Majesty's forces, on the one 
hand, and Mr P. Joubert, commanding the Boer forces, on the 
other hand, that, in order to give time for the arrival of Mr 
Kruger, delayed by bad weather, and for the reception of a 
telegram expected from England, the armistice now existing 
between the aforesaid shall be extended till midnight the 18th 
instant that is to say, for four days longer." 

Conditions of said Armistice. 

" Schedule I. The conditions of existing armistice to remain 
unaltered ; except that, in consideration of the prolongation 
for four days, General Wood has the option of sending four 
days' more provisions to those garrisons which have already 
received eight days, and twelve days' provisions to those gar- 
risons which have not yet received any provisions. 

" Schedule II. As provided in former agreement, hostilities 
will only be suspended at several garrisons for the four or 
twelve days after the arrival of the provisions at the garrisons. 
Also, one officer may accompany each provision column, but he 
and his conductor and driver are to be strictly neutral. 

" Schedule III. This armistice is not to prevent General 
Wood from sending his post as usual. 

"Agreed to at tent under Lang's Nek this 14th day of 
March 1881. 





" 12th March, 8 P.M. 
" Inform Boer leaders that, if Boers will undertake to desist 


from armed opposition and disperse to their homes, we are 
prepared to name the following as Commissioners : Sir H. 
Eobinson, Chief Justice De Yilliers, and yourself. President 
Brand would be asked to be present at proceedings as repre- 
senting friendly State. 

" Commission would be authorised to consider following 
points : complete self-government under British suzerainty, 
with British Eesident at Pretoria, and provisions for protec- 
tion of native interests and as to frontier affairs. Control of 
relations with foreign Powers to be reserved. 

" It would be well, also, to consider scheme for severance of 
territory eastward, to divide Transvaal from Zulus and Swazis, 
retaining great native districts on the east and north-east. 

" Amnesty to be granted as stated in my telegram to you 
of 8th. 

"You may consent to prolongation of armistice till 18th, if 
desired by Boer leaders, in order to give time for answer." 


(Eeceived, Colonial Office, 10.30 P.M., 14th March 1881.) 

" MOUNT PROSPECT, 14th March, 3.20 P.M. 

" Armistice prolonged on original basis to midnight on the 
18th, to allow time for Kruger's arrival." 


(Received, Colonial Office, 7.10 P.M., 15th March 1881.) 

" MOUNT PROSPECT, 15th March, 12.30 P.M. 

" Kruger arrived, asks for meeting at once ; have appointed 
9 to-morrow morning. I yesterday communicated first part 
of your telegram of 12th down to names of Commissioners. 
Joubert said privately to me that if they retired from Nek, 
though he would, while I command, accept my promise not to 
follow them up, would probably require written promise from 

2 H 

482 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

English Government. Authorise me, if necessary, to give 
such. May I read from 'desist to homes' in yours of 12th 
to mean withdrawal from Nek, and vicinity of roads, and 
cessation of armed opposition ; it would be hard to ascertain 
if they have really dispersed." 


(Sent 10.45 A.M., 16th March 1881.) 

" 16th March. 

" I see no objection to your definition of cessation from 
armed opposition. What is essential is that it should be a 
real dispersion of armed force. If Boers retire, it is not in- 
tended that you should follow them with troops, and you may 
give engagement to that effect; but there must be free peace- 
ful intercourse throughout Transvaal for all persons, as before 


(Received, Colonial Office, 7.45 P.M., 15th March 1881.) 

" MOUNT PROSPECT, 7.20 P.M., 15th March. 

" Have arranged to meet Kruger and Joubert at 9 to- 
morrow ; and that they may be prepared, have sent them 
copies of your telegrams of 8th and (?) 12th, omitting in last 
all words from ' it would be well ' to words ' east and north- 
east,' and inserting words ' within certain territorial limits,' 
after ' complete self-government.' Please let me know your 
views on question what should be boundary ; it is sure to be 


" 15th March, 11 P.M. 
" My telegram of 12th only indicated general heads. If 


principle of division acceptable, precise boundary and other 
details would be left to Commission." 


(Eeceived, Colonial Office, 2.15 A.M., 17th March 1881.) 

" MOUNT PROSPECT, 16th March, 6 P.M. 

"Have conferred since 10 A.M. Eesult: Boer leaders 
state they accept, to a great extent, and generally, the 
proposition contained in your telegrams of 8th and 12th; 
but they make withdrawal from Nek and dispersion de- 
pend upon the following concession, that the Boers be 
represented on the Commission in the proportion of two to 
three. They further express the hope that in order they may 
have a fair chance of maintaining order in the Transvaal, in- 
structions may be given to withdraw garrisons from Transvaal 
without waiting for the assembly of the Commission. It is 
agreed that the word dispersion will not prevent the Boers 
retaining sufficient forces to support their Government inter- 
nally. Joubert says plainly that he expects trouble from 
English party. I am most anxious for an early reply." 


(Received, Colonial Office, 3 A.M., 17th March 1881.) 

" MOUNT PROSPECT, 16th March, 9.5 P.M. 

" Precis of interview with Boer leaders. Eead conditions 
extracted from your telegrams of 8th and 12th as explained 
by mine of 15th. Kruger approved generally of them as 
basis of peace, but asked, had I a power to recognise him as 
representing Boer Government, and did I represent English ? 
Replied, Yes. Objected to proposed Commission as one-sided. 
Why not make peace at once without Commission ? Replied, 
Had not power. Then there must be Boers on Commission. 
After much talk he proposed two Boers in five. Kruger then 

484 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 

said that we must withdraw troops from Transvaal garrisons, 
if he consented to disperse. Eeplied, Was sure this would not 
be granted. How could we leave Transvaal before Commis- 
sion said what Transvaal was ? Kruger said, Transvaal is 
what you annexed, and have since held. Kruger consented to 
residents, but said that Government would deal with interior 
native affairs, and accepted suzerainty, as explained by me. 
It appeared clear that they fear trouble from loyal English, 
and therefore cannot entirely disperse their own, while they 
are anxious to get rid of English, forces. I do not think they 
realise they may have to yield extensive (?) tract to native 
tribes ; and if they contemplated chance of Commission arrang- 
ing this, they would not withdraw from Nek. After eight 
hours' talk I am confirmed in the opinion expressed in my 
telegram of 5th instant, words 131 to 149 [viz., 'Considering 
the disasters we have sustained, I think the happiest result 
will be, that after accelerating successful action.'] " 


(Despatched from Colonial Office, 6.30 P.M.) 

" nth March. 

" The suggestion for Royal Commission came from Boers. 
We agreed to it, in belief that it was the most convenient way 
of inquiring into facts and considering details. Commission 
would consider all representations and would make recommen- 
dations, but not finally decide. We could not agree to mixed 
Commission, but Commissioners would meet representatives of 
Boers and discuss all matters with them. 

" You report that of the points mentioned in my telegram 
of 12th instant, suzerainty and resident are accepted, and 
we infer that control of foreign relations and frontier affairs 
is also accepted. 

" With regard to interior native affairs, Commission would 
have to consider what securities should be taken as to future 
treatment of natives. As to rearrangement of territorial 


limits, we never contemplated that territory north of Vaal 
Eiver and west of Oliphant's Eiver should be severed from 
Transvaal. Commission would consider how much, if any, of 
the territory to the east of a line practically thirtieth parallel 
of longitude should be retained. Joubert seems to have been 
favourable so far as concerns territory south of Vaal Eiver, 
and we think a separation of the Transvaal territory from 
such native tribes as Zulus and Swazis may prove to be as 
much, if not more, for interest of Boers as of ourselves. 

" As regards dispersion, we understand that Boers are dis- 
posed to agree generally to our terms as explained in your 
telegram of 15th; but our troops must remain in Transvaal 
till final settlement, and it will be their duty to prevent any 
party from using the situation to the prejudice of Boers. 

" You may use your discretion as to further prolongation of 


(Eeceived at the Colonial Office, 8.30 P.M., 18th March 1881.) 

" MOUNT PROSPECT, 18th March, 4 P.M. 

" Kruger and Pretorius unwell. At Joubert's request pro- 
longed armistice for three days to consider your telegram 
17th, and advise with Brand, expected to-morrow. No objec- 
tion made at meeting 16th to control foreign relations and 
resident for supervision native affairs." 


" 20th March, 11 P.M. 

" I have not yet heard from you result of communications 
with Boers as to my telegram of 17th. 

" We rely on you, unless military necessity requires imme- 
diate action, to give us time to consider points on which you 
may be unable to come to agreement with Boer leaders." 

486 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 


" MOUNT PROSPECT, 21st March, 3 P.M. 

" Conferring since 8 A.M. ; not certain yet, but anticipate 
peaceful solution. Your telegram of yesterday delayed." 


(Received, Colonial Office, 4 A.M., 22d March 1881.) 

" MOUNT PROSPECT, 21st March, 9.25 P.M. 

" After sitting 1 2 1 hours without intermission, the follow- 
ing is an epitome, attested by the leaders and me, as correctly 
showing proceedings, which proceedings have been signed by 
the Boers and by me, subject to your ratification. I urge 
your approval, and, if you can, to shorten the interval to four 
months ; authorise me to ratify proceedings, when Boers will 
disperse. Armistice prolonged for 48 hours. Brand's presence 
lias been invaluable. 

" The Boer leaders having previously accepted telegraphs of 
8th and 12th, except in two points since abandoned, and hav- 
ing been acknowledged as leaders by Sir Evelyn Wood, have 
accepted the principle of suzerainty as denned by him viz., 
that the country has entire self-government as regards its own 
interior affairs, but that it cannot take action against, or with 
an outside Power, without permission of the suzerain. They 
agree to recognise a British Resident at the future capital of 
the country with such functions as the British Government 
may decide on the recommendation of the Royal Commission, 
and also that the Royal Commission should consider the pro- 
visions for the protection of native interests, and as to frontier 
affairs that control of relations with foreign Powers should be 

" Sir E. Wood acknowledged the right of the Transvaal 
people to complete self-government, subject to suzerain rights. 
The Boer leaders stated they would gladly co-operate with her 


Majesty's Government in bringing to justice those who have 
committed or are directly responsible for acts contrary to ciyi- 
lised warfare. As the Boers have agreed to withdraw from 
the Nek and disperse to their homes, Sir E. Wood promises 
that he will not take possession of that position, nor follow 
them up with troops, nor send ammunition into the Transvaal. 
The Boer leaders accept the terms offered in the telegram of 
the 17th March. They state we will trust to the British 
Government to give to us complete self-government as soon as 
possible, and, at latest, within six months, it being understood 
that no civil action be entertained in respect of proceedings 
taken during or in reference to the war, and equally no action 
shall be taken in respect of taxation until the self-govern- 
ment is accorded. 

" We further trust that if the Eoyal Commission considers 
any separation of land to the east of the thirtieth degree of 
longitude to be necessary, such Commission will not recommend 
the separation of more land than is necessary for the purposes 
of the English policy, as indicated in the telegram of 17th 
March. We accept the arrangement proposed by Sir E. Wood 
about exchange of property captured during the \var or taken 
over at the annexation, the exchange to be carried out when 
self-government is fully accorded." 


The memorial alluded to at p. 237 is still unerected, al- 
though the consent of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's, for 
its being placed in the crypt of the Cathedral, was obtained 
by Sir William Bellairs so long ago as February 1883. 
Vexatious delays have arisen from repeated references having 
to be made to Pretoria, and other causes ; and notwithstanding 
the efforts made by Lieutenant-Colonel Le Mesurier, R.E., 
the honorary secretary, acting for the members of a now scat- 
tered committee, to bring about agreement and a satisfactory 



The monument is intended to be a large memorial brass, with 
as originally agreed upon the following inscription, figures 
representing a British soldier and a mounted volunteer being 
on either side, and the names of the fallen underneath : 

" This monument, erected by Comrades, Relations, and 
Friends, is sacred to the memory of all those who, belonging 
to the besieged garrisons and forces in the Transvaal, lost 
their lives whilst fighting for Queen and Country during the 
heroic defence of that Province against the Boers, from 
December 16th 1880, to March 31st 1881." 



Lieut. -Colonel 

Lieut. & Adjt. 

L. -Sergeant 

P. R. Anstruthor. 

S. H. M'L. Nairne. 
Jas. MacSwiney. 
H. A. C. Harrison. 
Christopher Cummins. 
Thomas Moloney. 
Winslow Percival. 
John Porter. 
Henry Tovell. 
Walton Webb. 
A. Rooker. 

Corporal James M'Guilton. 
L. -Corporal Charles Brown. 
Francis Dennis. 

William Dickens. 

J. Dickenson. 

Edward Donaldson. 

Gregory Phillips. 
Win. Philpotts. 
Wm. Eaper. 
Wm. Rogers. 

\V. Alexander. 
Jnmes Atkinson 
Richard Ayrcs. 
Jesse Baker. 
William Bell. 
Stephen Belsey. 
W. J. Brown.' 
Thomas Brown. 
Thomas Bryan. 
Henry Carlin. 
< 'harles Chamberlain. 
Frederick Crick. 
J. Cummins. 
Samuel Dunning. 
James Finegan. 
Thomas (Jrimcs. 
John Guernsey. 
J. Gallagher. 

A. S. Corps 


J. Gibson. 
Thomas Green. 
Patrick Hickey. 
Michael Hogan. 
J. Hougham. 
J. Howes. 
James Jcnner. 
John Johnson. 
Henry Kerr. 
Geo. H. Lee. 
Michael M 'Donald 
J. M'Hugh. 
Wm. M'Kee. 
Isaac M'Kew. 
Patrick M 'Phillips 
James M'Veigh. 
John Mahoney. 
Charles Martin. 

J. Maynard. 

Walter Morris. 
Michael Murphy. 
J. Murray. 
W. Price. 
Samuel Rowan. 
A. Slater. 
John Starkie. 
Eugene Sullivan. 
J. Tolan. 
Francis Travers. 
David Ward. 
Matthew Warren. 
Nathaniel Whitstone 
J. Wharton. 
Joseph Williams. 
J. Williams. 

Civilian .... 

Commis. and Trans. Staff . 

Sergeant W. E. Rollings. 

Private G. Robertson. 

Conductor Bancroft. 

D. -A. -C. -General E. J. S. Carter. 




N Batt., 5th Brigade, Royal Artillery 
2d Batt, 21st R. S. Fusiliers . 

A. H. Corps . 
Pretoria Carbineers 

Q. -Master Sergr. 
Col. -Sergeant 




Nourse's Horse 

W. Briery. 
G. Finch. 
T. Cowie. 
Charles Byrne. 
R. Flynn. 
E. King. 
E. Thomas. 
W. Humphreys. 
Henry Sanctuary. 
Thomas Simpson. 
J. Channbury. 
A. J. Cogan. 
W. Dickens. 
W. Erasmus. 
E. A. Gribbon. 
C. S. Hawes. 
James Lontj. 


N Batt,, 5th Brigade, Royal Artillery 

2d Batt., 21st R. S. Fusiliers 

J. Bedford. 
D. Birmingham. 
W. Boyd. 
C. Brownlie. 
F. Dobbs. 





W. Grant. 
J. Jones. 
J. Jordan. 
W. Kennan. 
A. Laird. 


J. Kelvington. 





A. L. Falls. 

J. Gartshore. 

J. Leishman. 
J. Mullen. 
H. Roberts. 
J. Thornback. 
J. Watson. 

H. Taylor. 

Class Abrams. 


94th Foot 

Transvaal Mounted Police . 



James Freeth. 

Joseph M'Gonigle. 


C. H. Chinn. 


94th Foot 




John Loch Cowdy. 
G. Hatterall. 
R. R. Macdonald. 
James Stewart. 

490 THE TRANSVAAL WAR, 1880-81. 


58th Foot Private William Crann. 

ii ..... ii John Hearn. 

94th Foot ..... ii George Atkinson. 

Standerton Mounted Volunteers . Trooper G. Bruce Hall, 

ii M Thomas Walsh. 


58th Foot Private William Bennett. 

n ..... n Owen Byrne. 


An officer contributes the following reflections, having refer- 
ence to baneful efforts made from time to time to bring about 
an alteration in seniority promotion to the higher ranks of the 
army : 

" Selection, when resorted to otherwise than sparingly and 
for very well-founded reasons, which are made public that is, 
selection by passing over other officers of high field-rank, who 
with long and tried service have proved their capacity for 
more responsible employment cannot but tend to disgust, 
' take the heart out of,' and lessen the efficiency of many val- 
uable officers. The service does not benefit and the public 
suffer. Officers of well - ascertained unfitness should, of 
course, be set aside ; but none who have attained high field- 
rank should be passed over without sufficient cause. It is 
not always possible, even with the purest intentions, to single 
out the best officers ; and, with erring human nature, the choice 
would be apt too often to degenerate into mere bringing for- 
ward favourites, or men to further a purpose, political or other- 
wise, so passing over and causing the premature retirement of 
numerous proved excellent officers, whose sole disqualifica- 
tions in the eyes of those exercising the power of selection 
might be that they were comparatively unknown to what 
is termed society, or else were not considered the sufficiently 


pliable instruments sought for. It has, moreover, not un- 
frequently happened that the brilliant expectations entertained 
of an officer have been strangely falsified when practically 
tested ; while another, ignored at one time, has subsequently 
been discovered to develop the very qualities required. Theo- 
retical training will not always give, or examinations prove, 
the possession of the attributes necessary in a commander. 
" Such a mode of promotion is also detrimental, as inducing 
a deplorable practice which some assert has been on the in- 
crease of late years of junior officers taking every opportunity, 
other than straightforward or open, for decrying the actions, 
motives, or services of those immediately above or senior to 
them in dates of commission, thus hoping to pass over or sup- 
plant them in estimation. What lias been called ' clandestine ' 
correspondence is even resorted to, in the endeavour to bring 
themselves more prominently in view, carried on by private 
letters ' behind the backs,' so to say, of their military com- 
manders or seniors with high and influential civil or military 
officials ; or diaries and letters, ostensibly for family reading, 
are industriously passed on for the perusal of others, some of 
the highest in the realm being perhaps reached in this way, 
even during the progress of a campaign." 









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